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Students are still enjoying summer vacation, but soon classes will be back in session.

During this time, local districts and health officials speak about the importance of making sure all children are up to date with their childhood vaccinations. After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed many things, including vaccinations, they are asking parents to make sure they get those vaccinations scheduled now.

The Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and The Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association held a press conference in Lansing to stress the urgency of getting children and teens immunized to avoid the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases in the classroom.

Michigan saw an alarming drop in the rate of routine childhood immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, less than 70% of Michigan children have received vaccines on schedule as recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Family Physicians. The City of Detroit and Oscoda County have the lowest childhood vaccination rates in the state, both plummeting below 50%.

District Health Department No. 10 Immunization Coordinator Bethanie Dean said a lot of people didn’t go anywhere during the pandemic and many families got behind with their children’s vaccines. Although she didn’t look at the local health department numbers, Dean said the percentage of children that are behind in their vaccinations is likely similar to the CDC statistics.

“It’s usually only one series (of vaccinations they are behind in). It could be the 4-year-old shots or the 12- year-old shots. Once they get them they are up-to-date,” she said.

The dip in vaccinations has left many children and teens unvaccinated against as many as 16 serious childhood diseases that are extremely contagious. For example, one carrier of measles is likely to infect 12 to 18 others and, for pertussis, also known as whooping cough, eight out of 10 people will be infected when exposed to the disease.

“Safely returning to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year means doing everything possible to protect students from communicable diseases and illnesses, which is why ensuring children and teens are up to date on their vaccines is critical,‘ MEMSPA Executive Director Paul Liabenow, and former Cadillac Area Public Schools superintendent, said. “Michigan students can’t afford any more lost learning time due to the spread of diseases.‘

Studies show that family physicians are trusted sources of science-based vaccine information and are the preferred providers of vaccines. A national survey conducted by the African American Research Collaborative in partnership with the Commonwealth Fund found 44% of Latino and 53% of Black respondents would prefer to get vaccinated in their doctor’s ofce than elsewhere. The CDC reports that a doctor’s strong recommendation is “closely correlated with vaccination.‘

With provider officers and the various health department offices opening back up, Dean said all a person needs to do is call their physician’s office or their county’s health department office. The Wexford County District Health Department No. 10 office has vaccine clinics every Tuesday and two of those clinics are until 6 p.m.

To schedule an appointment and clinic times in Wexford County, call (231) 775-9942. To check for vaccine clinic times or schedule an appointment in Lake County, call (231) 745-4663 or in Missaukee County (231) 839-7167.