This story appeared in The County Press. Read the full story here.
LAPEER TWP. — Lapeer County and Michigan public health officials urge parents to get their children caught up on vaccinations prior to returning to classes this fall, to prevent outbreaks of serious communicable diseases such as measles, mumps, pertussis, chickenpox and more.
Vaccination rates for Michigan children ages 19 to 36 months have fallen below 70% in more than half of the state (52 of 83 counties), according to June 2023 date from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR).
“Parents should know that this year is different. We’re seeing some of the lowest vaccination rates in more than a decade, which puts our schools and communities at risk,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for the Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). “We also know that families are traveling more, both out-of-state and internationally. All it takes is one case to spark an outbreak that could affect an entire community.”
Lapeer County is among 10 areas of Michigan with the lowest vaccination rates for children ages 19 to 36 months at 60.5%. “Vaccination is one of our best tools in preventing many diseases,” said Kathy Haskins, director of the Lapeer County Health Dept. (LCHD). “While mild/moderate in many children, they can cause some serious complications (such as deafness from measles).”
Haskins added, “Many childhood diseases can be prevented by following the recommended guidelines for vaccines. Due to the effectiveness of the vaccines, many parents today have not seen the disease, nor the serious consequences that can come from getting the disease. However, they are still out there, and making a comeback due to lower immunization rates. During the Ohio Measles outbreak last fall I believe about 94% of those who became ill had not been completely vaccinated, and many were hospitalized.”
Immunizations are by appointment at the LCHD office at 1800 Imlay City Rd. in Lapeer Township. Call 810-667-0448. Department staff can schedule and discuss insurance and reduce cost options. Uninsured children are eligible for Vaccine For Children (VFC). Children will not be turned away due to inability to pay. Parents or guardians opting out of the vaccinations required for their child or children to attend childcare or school, must request a waiver from their local public health department. Waivers are only required for children in licensed childcare programs, preschool, kindergarten, seventh grade or new to a district. Waivers are available by appointment at 810-667-0448.
Vaccination rates of younger children dropped during the pandemic. The most recent data from MDHHS shows that only 66.5% of children ages 19 to 36 months have completed their recommended doses in the primary childhood vaccine series — some of the lowest rates Michigan has seen since 2011. For required vaccines, Michigan’s 2010 rate was 60%, then 68% in 2011 and now 66.1% in 2023
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. Public health officials are most concerned when children who have not yet received all school-required vaccines are clustered together in the same school building. Kindergartners attending school in a building with vaccination coverage less than 90% more than doubled between 2015 (16,408 students) and 2022 (37,368 students). Similarly, the number of schools with kindergarten coverage rates less than 90% nearly doubled between 2015 (466 schools) and 2022 (808 schools).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the COVID-19 vaccine and an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as part of the recommended vaccination childhood and adolescent schedules.
“Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to protect our communities from the spread of diseases, which is especially important for those who are most vulnerable, like immunocompromised people and children who are too young to receive immunizations,” said Ruthanne Sudderth, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.
Michigan parents with vaccination questions can find answers based entirely on medical science at IVaccinate.org. Parents can download the CDCrecommended vaccination schedule for children and adolescents for reference ahead of doctor’s office visits.