Officials urge parents to get kids up to date on vaccinations

Young woman pointing to her arm after getting a vaccine

This article was posted in The Alpena News. Read the full article here.

ALPENA — As the beginning of the 2023-24 school year nears, Northeast Michigan health officials are reminding parents that now is a good time to bring your child up to date on vaccinations.

August has been designated as National Immunization Awareness Month — an initiative promoted by both District Health Department No. 4 and the Northern Michigan Public Health Alliance as a way for parents to review their child’s vaccination records and get them up to date on vaccine-preventable diseases before school starts.

“Back-to-school season means getting everything your kids need for day one: School supplies, new clothes and, yes, immunizations,” DHD4 Medical Director Joshua Meyerson said in an email. “Getting students vaccinated is crucial for the health and well-being of students, teachers, families, and school staff.”

The Michigan Public Health Code, passed in 1978, requires that parents immunize their children against illnesses including polio, diphtheria and tetanus. All public and private schools, daycare centers, and other groups for children must require an immunization certification before admitting a child.

However, the act also allows parents to waive the need for vaccinations for medical, religious, or other objections. Effective in 2015, the state changed rules for parents seeking a waiver for vaccination requirements. Now, they must first go through a counseling session that discusses the benefits of vaccinations before a health department official signs the form.

The most recent county immunization report cards from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services show Alcona County ranks highest in the state for student vaccination rates and Alpena County has had the biggest increase of waived vaccination requirements in Northeast Michigan.

Alcona County’s student vaccination rate is at 98.8%, a 4.1% increase from 2022 and higher than Michigan’s vaccination average of 91.4%. The report card also shows Alcona County has no waived vaccinations, which remains the same from last year.

Montmorency County has a 89.9% vaccination rate, a 0.4% decrease. Presque Isle County has a 90.4% rate, a 0.5% increase. Both counties have an 8% waived vaccination rate and they had 0.6% and 1% increases from last year, respectively.

Alpena County has a 92.1% vaccination rate, a 1.1% decrease from 2022. While the waived vaccination rate is not as large as Montmorency County or Presque Isle County’s 8%, Alpena County has the largest increase of waived requirements.

Alpena County has a 6.9% waive rate, which increased by 3.2% from last year. The Michigan average for waived vaccinations is at 4.8%.

All data originates from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry.

Denise Bryan, health officer for District Health Department No. 4, reminds everyone about the importance of keeping up to date on vaccinations.

“Vaccinations have saved lives and prevented countless illnesses in children and adults,” Bryan said. “Your health care provider or the health department nurses can answer your questions on vaccinations, and appointments are available.”

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You’ve got questions. That’s a good thing.

As parents, determining how best to protect our children can be overwhelming and confusing. We’re here to help.

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