This article appeared in Michigan Chronicle. Read more here.
Michigan public health leaders are urging parents to get their children caught up on vaccinations prior to returning to in-person 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 (43 of 83 counties), according to June 2022 data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR). In seven Michigan counties and the City of Detroit, the rate has dropped below 60%.
“While we’ve mostly seen outbreaks associated with COVID or flu in recent years due to school closures from the pandemic, other vaccine-preventable diseases are still a very real risk to schools,” said Dr. Joseph Fakhoury, pediatric hospitalist at Bronson Children’s Hospital. “Historically, we’ve seen the effects that these diseases have on children and families, and they continue to pose a risk even today.”
Vaccination coverage in adolescents also remains low, with only 42.5% of the state’s 13-to-18-year old’s having received all required and recommended vaccinations. This dip in vaccination coverage coincides with the United States’ first polio case in almost a decade, and a return of near normal back-to-school practices with COVID vaccines available to everyone 6 months and older.
The 10 areas of the state with the lowest vaccination rates for children ages 19 to 36 months are: Oscoda County (28.9%), the City of Detroit (47.2%), Keweenaw County (52.4%), Gladwin County (57.9%), Leelanau County (58.4%), Iron County (58.5%), Sanilac County (58.8%), Branch County (61.2%) and Cass County (61.2%).
“We can send our kids to school safely this year by getting them caught up on the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule before the first day, so we can minimize the spread of preventable diseases,” said Veronica McNally, president of the Franny Strong Foundation and founder of the I Vaccinate campaign. “As a mother myself, I’m asking parents to take this opportunity before school begins to protect their littles ones, as well as their classmates, through vaccination.”
The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as part of the recommended vaccination childhood and adolescent schedules. As of August 3, 51.1% of 16-to-19-year old’s, 45.8% of 12-to-15-year old’s and 26.7% of 5-to-11-year old’s have completed the COVID-19 vaccine series.
“COVID-19 is a crisis that won’t disappear before school starts. What we especially do not want are outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases alongside the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for the State of Michigan. “I urge parents to talk to their pediatrician as soon as possible about any vaccinations that their child is behind on.”
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.