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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) – As more students and teachers are preparing to come together in common spaces for back to school, public health leaders are urging Michigan parents to ‘catch up’ their children on vaccines before the new school year.
Childhood vaccination rates in the state are at their lowest since 2011. In recent years, Michigan schools have seen outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Last year we did have a little trouble with COVID and a lot didn’t go to their doctor regularly,” said Lisa McClain, a health coordinator at International Academy of Flint.
According to June 2023 data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, vaccination rates for Michigan children 19 to 36 months have fallen below 70% in more than half of the state (52 of 83 counties).
State Chief Medical Executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian says there are two big reasons behind these lower rates with one being the pandemic.
“Some of those routine visits like routine childhood visits they got a little bit lower in terms of numbers during the pandemic and it’s possible folks just haven’t gotten back into the habit of going to see their primary care provider,” said Bagdasarian.
And the other reason being misinformation.
“I think there has been a lot of political rhetoric, misinformation and divisive talk about vaccines during the pandemic,” she added.
But with more students heading back to school, the chief medical executive is reminding parents routine vaccines are important for preventable diseases like measles, mumps, pertussis, hepatitis, and chickenpox.
“I think it would be a real shame if one of the side effects of the pandemic was that we lost the protection for some of those highly preventable diseases.”
It’s also important for parents to look at their child’s county and school immunization data because 70% is looked as the number to reach herd immunity.
“Many of our communities in the state are over 90% vaccinated. For example, if you live in a community like that, the risk of outbreak is much lower and if you live in a community with a lower immunization rate and we’ve got some communities that are very low, below 50%, then the risk for outbreak gets exponentially larger,” said Bagdasarian.
Overall, the state and local schools are hopeful for a healthy year ahead.
“This year seems to be we have a very high rate of them coming in and being vaccinated, so I think it will be healthier this year,” said McClain.
Michigan parents with vaccination questions can find answers based entirely on medical science at IVaccinate.org. Parents can download the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule for children and adolescents for reference ahead of doctor’s office visits.
As fall season approaches, the state will provide messaging on the importance of vaccines for the flu, RSV, and COVID-19.
The CDC 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.