You blinked, and suddenly back-to-school commercials are flooding your television screen and ads are filling your Facebook newsfeed. It’s time to shift your focus and plan for sending your little one (or not-so-little one) back to school for another year of classes. After you ask yourself, ‘how did my baby get so big already?’, you start making your back-to-school shopping list: backpack, lunchbox, notebooks, pencils. But as your mind runs through everyday school supplies, we recommend that immunizations be at the top of your checklist as well. As the nation is facing the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, ensuring your child is safe and healthy starts with routine vaccination. 

Here are I Vaccinate’s top reasons to vaccinate your child as they prepare to head back-to-school:

1) Michigan is one of 30 states facing the largest measles outbreak in more than two decades.

Our nation is facing the worst measles outbreak since 1992, with cases topping 1,000 nationally and 46 confirmed cases right here in Michigan. This comes after measles was declared eradicated from the United States in 2000. The measles virus is exceptionally dangerous as it is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and it can live for up to two additional hours in the airspace of the infected person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.”

This highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease is a major concern in Michigan communities, and the best way to keep your child safe is by following the (CDC)’s MMR vaccine recommendations and guidelines. The recommended schedule suggests that children receive two doses of the vaccine, the first between 12-15 months, and the second between ages 4-6. 

2) Michigan continues to see hundreds of cases of whooping cough, mumps and chickenpox each year, as well as other vaccine-preventable diseases.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there were 658 cases of whooping cough, 486 cases of chickenpox and 81 cases of mumps reported in 2018. Children are especially vulnerable to the serious and sometimes devastating effects of these diseases, and crowded school hallways and playgrounds increase the likelihood of exposure to these illnesses. In total, there are 16 vaccine-preventable diseases, and it is important that parents follow the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule to ensure immunity.

3) This past flu season lasted 21 weeks – the longest in 10 years. Despite common misconceptions, the flu is very serious.

The flu is an illness the public commonly views as your everyday “bug”. Unfortunately, its effects can be far more drastic. During the 2018-2019 flu season, there were 930 (118 pediatric, 812 adult) flu-related hospitalizations and three flu-related deaths in Michigan. You may consider the flu shot to be a necessary step for peace of mind, but it’s important to realize that it’s much more than that – it’s a life-saving vaccine.

4) Vaccines protect our children and teens from 16 vaccine-preventable diseases – including the six types of cancer caused by HPV.

HPV is a common virus that can lead to certain types of cancer later in life. Every year in the U.S., 33,700 women and men are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection, and getting your 11 to 12-year-old child two doses of the HPV vaccine is crucial to help prevent these cancers down the road. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is thought to be responsible for about 91 percent of cervical cancers, 75 percent of vaginal cancers, 69 percent of vulvar cancers, 63 percent of penile cancers, 91 percent of anal cancers and 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers.

5) In recent years, Michigan has had some of the worst childhood immunization rates in the nation.

Despite factual, scientific evidence showcasing the importance of following recommended vaccination schedules, nearly half of all Michigan parents are choosing to delay some vaccinations or are skipping them altogether. According to Michigan Care Improvement Registry data, only 59.1 percent of Michigan toddlers are up-to-date on all of their recommended vaccinations, and only 40.5 percent of Michigan teens ages 13 to 17 are up-to-date on all of their recommended vaccinations.

When immunization rates reach 90-95 percent in a community, herd immunity is reached, making our schools safer for all children to live, learn and play. As a parent, you can begin to change Michigan’s low vaccination narrative through routine immunizations, not only helping to keep your child safe, but your entire community.

There is no controversy around vaccines in the medical community. Doctors and other medical professionals agree: Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing disease and protect communities from outbreaks. 

While it’s normal to have questions, it’s important that you are getting answers from credible sources: talk to your child’s doctor and explore resources like IVaccinate.org, which provides Michigan parents with information and tools based on medical science and research to help them protect their kids.

So, as you grab gym shoes and Kleenex boxes in preparation for the new school year, health experts agree that vaccines should not be left off your annual checklist.

For more information visit the CDC’s Interactive Vaccine Guide.