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Michigan physicians are teaming up with educators – urging parents to get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19. During the pandemic, doctors say they saw an alarming drop in vaccination rates, with kids not going in to the doctor for even routine well-child visits and physicals.

Dr. Tina Tanner with Mercy Health Physician Partners says, “To reduce and eliminate outbreaks in school we need to get as many Michiganders as possible vaccinated.” But while many of us may not be ready to think about going back to school while we’re still in the middle of summer, doctors say the time for back to school protection – is now.

Dr. Mark Hamed is with the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians. “It’s extremely important that children get caught up on their vaccines before going back to in person learning. This will help protect against vaccine-preventable diseases, which can lead to serious illness, disability, and even death.”

“It’s urgent to catch students up on vaccinations as we plan for safe return to in-person school in just a month or so. Being behind on child vaccination can undoubtedly lead to unnecessary sickness and outbreaks in schools. Plus the spread of disease leads to lost learning, lost learning time. And we don’t need any more of that,” says Paul Liabenow. He is the former Cadillac Schools Superintendent and now represents the Elementary and Middle school Principals Association. “It appears our youngest learners are less susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, but we continue to be concerned that some portions of the age group 12 and older are not getting vaccinated.”More Pfizer Vaccine

Glen Lake Elementary Principal Ryan Schrock says the goal is to protect the student body. “We must insure our students are protected from diseases by getting vaccinated.” He says, “Vaccines mean a safe and healthy start to the school year, and Michigan kids deserve that.”

Dr. Tanner adds, “Vaccination provides us with one of the safest and most effective tools to prevent fatal or severely debilitating diseases. We urge families to prioritize well-child visits and updating your child’s vaccination prior to starting school. Please consider scheduling these visits now so your child can be fully vaccinated prior to starting school.

“At the end of June 56% of Michiganders 12 and older had received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. We applaud this progress but ask that everyone pull together,” Dr. Tanner says. The statewide numbers as of July 19th are now at about 62%. It’s short of the 70% goal – but the numbers for kids are even lower. Less than 29% of kids ages 12-15 have had their first dose – just 40% for those between 16 and 19 years old.

Schrock says, “We saw the impact COVID-19 had in our schools, taking students out 10 days at a time after exposure to the virus. We’re hoping to avoid situations like this from happening again, by insuring families get their kids vaccinated.

“As a school administrator and as a dad watching my kids in school, really important to see that collaborative effort happening with our county health departments. Following the CDC guidelines, just doing everything we can to keep kids who are in our buildings safe as possible,” Schrock says.

Now that we’re in the third week of July, if you can get your kids in for an appointment now or next week – you can get their 2nd vaccination by mid-August. And that means they’ll be fully vaccinated and ready to get back to class by Labor Day. Liabenow says, “We know there will be concerns starting in the fall. Parents will be concerned about their child being exposed.”

Doctors know there are reasons parents do not want their children vaccinated. Dr. Hamed says, “I respect autonomy and I respect rights of parents, religious beliefs, medical issue. So this is a discussion between patient, parent, and the family physician.” But they say that’s why it’s important to get as many students vaccinated as possible, and avoid waiting until the last minute. Dr. Tanner says, “I urge everyone to make their appointments as soon as possible. There is a little bit of a struggle to get into some offices. But I know that my offices are making well-child visits a priority for the very reason that we feel these vaccinations are extremely important.”