GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With a new school year just around the corner, health leaders are urging parents to make sure their children are caught up on vaccines.
According to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, the number of children 19 to 36 months who are up-to-date on their recommended vaccines is below 70% for 52 of the state’s 83 counties.
“We don’t need to see another outbreak of measles or mumps or pertussis,” said Amy Shears, Immunization Program Supervisor at the Kent County Health Department.
The trend is troubling as those children become closer to school-aged. Routine immunizations for diseases like chickenpox, mumps, measels, pertussis, are required for students to attend school in Michigan, unless they have a waiver.
“Kids need to be vaccinated to stay healthy, while they’re out of school so they can (go to) sports events and family events and such,” Shears said.
As of June 30, vaccination rates for toddlers in Michigan has dropped about 8% and teen rates have just fallen under 1% since 2019.
Shears said the COVID-19 pandemic may have been a factor for some, but routine immunizations have been shown to fall off parents’ radars.
“We all have fun summer schedules, providers have busy schedules, the health department has a busy schedule,” Shears said.
Megan Rogers, a certified child life specialist with University of Michigan Health-West, said making vaccinations easier on families has been proven to increase rates.
“It’s okay to be honest with your child by letting them know what to expect and letting them know the reason why and why having a vaccine is important,” Rogers said.
Rogers added that COVID-19 brought a lot of attention to vaccines but there’s more work to be done.
“We realized that we really need to educate our entire community about why vaccines in general are important,” Rogers said. “It’s easy to sometimes to just go with the flow and we do this every year and this is why we do it.”
Shears said it’s not too late for parents to make sure their kids get their shots.
“So, that first day of school you don’t get a phone call or a letter from the school saying, ‘Hey we need this information,'” Shears said.
If your child isn’t up to date on their vaccines, you’re encouraged to contact your medical provider or the Kent County Health Department, which has clinics where those services are available.
Shears said now is also a good time to make sure your child has their sports physical completed.