In 42 Michigan Counties, Children’s Vaccination Rates Have Dropped Below 70%

LANSING, Mich. – Doctors, nurses, hospitals, and state and national public health leaders today urged Michigan parents to get their children up to date on vaccinations to prevent serious communicable diseases such as measles, mumps, pertussis, chicken pox and more from spreading as the state reopens after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In many states including Michigan, vaccination rates of younger children dropped during the pandemic as parents postponed well-child visits to protect their kids from COVID-19. As a result, vaccination rates for Michigan children ages 19 to 36 months have fallen below 70% in more than half of the state (42 of 83 Michigan counties), according to February data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR). In six Michigan counties and the City of Detroit, the rate has dropped below 60%. While community immunity is different for each disease and vaccine, doctors and public health experts generally agree that a 70% vaccination rate is the minimum protection level desired.

“At a time when our health care system is becoming once again overwhelmed with COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that we avoid outbreaks of preventable serious diseases,” said Bob Swanson, Immunization Division Director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). “It’s time to catch up Michigan children who did not get their routine vaccinations over the past year so we can protect them and our friends, families and loved ones who are medically unable to be vaccinated.”

The 10 areas with the lowest vaccination rates for children ages 19 to 36 months are: Oscoda County (45.2%), City of Detroit (49%), Gladwin County (55.9%), Iron County (58.3%), Lake County (59.2%), Clare County (59.3%), Otsego County (59.9%), Mackinac County (60.7%), Cass County (61%) and Houghton County (61.3%).

“As things continue to open up, kids who are not caught up on routine vaccinations won’t be protected from these potentially serious and preventable illnesses,” said Dr. Herbert Smitherman, MD, professor of internal medicine for the School of Medicine and the Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University and president and CEO of Health Centers Detroit Foundation, Inc. “Make it a priority. If we don’t, these diseases can and will make a comeback, and I have seen firsthand their devastating impact on families.”

Franny Strong Foundation president and I Vaccinate campaign founder Veronica McNally knows this devastation well. In 2012, Veronica and her husband Sean lost their 3-month-old daughter Francesca to whooping cough.

“Infants or children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons count on all of us to be immunized to create a circle of protection called community immunity,” said McNally, who is the consumer representative on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. “What we are seeing with the drop in childhood vaccinations rates in Michigan is very concerning because it leaves so many unprotected.”

Following the CDC-recommended schedule protects children and teens from 16 vaccine-preventable diseases by age 18. The schedule is recommended by the CDC and is approved by every major medical organization in the country, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians. It is also the only schedule that has been carefully tested, studied and reviewed by medical experts prior to being recommended for children.

“It’s important for parents to know that the CDC-recommended schedule has been developed so that your child is protected and receiving the vaccines at the age when he or she will have the best response to develop immunity,” said Dr. Joe Fakhoury, MD, FAAP, pediatric hospitalist with Bronson Pediatric Medicine Hospital Specialists.

“The vast majority of parents in Michigan and other states should be applauded for doing the right thing by following stay-at-home orders during the worst months of the pandemic, but most doctor’s offices now have procedures in place to ensure patients can safely come in for well visits and to get caught up on immunizations,” said Dr. Rachel Young, DO, family medicine physician and clinic director of the McLaren Family Medicine Residency Clinic in Lansing. “We’ve implemented policies like checking in families from the car, limiting how many people can accompany a child and requiring face masks.”

Michigan parents with vaccination questions can find answers based entirely on medical science at IVaccinate.org.

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The nationally recognized I Vaccinate campaign is a joint public-private effort of the Franny Strong Foundation and MDHHS and is supported by the CDC and every major medical and health organization in the state, including the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Michigan Health & Hospital Association, Michigan Osteopathic Association and Michigan State Medical Society. Reporters can reference IVaccinate.org as a credible source in any story about vaccinations. Follow I Vaccinate on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @IVaccinateMI.