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Michigan has the 4th highest number of parents who won't vaccinate their kids, what's that about?


Michigan has the fourth highest rate in the nation of parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated for religious, medical and other reasons. Many simply don’t get all the immunization shots required.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month and a new effort is underway to get more Michigan children fully vaccinated.

The vaccination push begins as the number of children falling ill with preventable diseases is on the rise.

“As parents prepare to send their children back to school….it is important they make sure each child is up to date with their immunizations,” says Dr. Kenneth Elmassian, the president of the Michigan State Medical Society.

More than a hundred children in Washtenaw County have been treated for Whooping Cough this year. There were nearly 850 cases statewide last year. One 3 month old child died. 

Cases of other preventable diseases are also on the rise in Michigan. State health officials blame Michigan’s declining child vaccination rate. 

Less than 72% of Michigan’s children have gotten their full slate of immunizations, for diseases like Mumps, Rubella and Measles.

Back in 2009, Julie Grant for the Environment Report spoke with Heather Waltz, a mother who chose to not get vaccinations for her child. Grant wanted to see why the trend was growing.

“I think the jury’s still out, as far as what the research says. But there is enough anecdotal sort of stuff to make me aware and decide that, really, right at this point, vaccinating wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Waltz ... “For every bit of research and every article I find sort of helping me support my point, there’s a million other bits of research and articles saying that I’m a bad parent, or saying that I’m somehow damaging the health of the entire United States by not vaccinating my child.”

Lance Rodewald with the Center for Disease Control told Grant that a lot of concern for vaccinations is due to a study that came out over a decade ago. 

"The authors withdrew their names from the article. But this particular study set off a whole series of concerns about vaccines and autism, that, to this day, is still talked about."

Other studies have been done since then, and no association has been found between the two. 

Here's more from Grant's report:

In one case [in 2008], Rodewald says a child who wasn't vaccinated caught the measles in Switzerland and brought it back to Arizona. "The parents didn't realize that the child had measles -- brought him to the pediatrician's office where the babies that were too young to be vaccinated that got measles. And then that particular outbreak went through four generations of spread, from child, to child, to child, to child before it was able to be contained."

Situations like that are ones that Bob Swanson wants to avoid. He's the state immunization division director at the Department of Community Health. 

“If we have an entire population that’s vulnerable to these diseases, we’re going to see bigger and larger outbreaks of these diseases.”

Lucy Perkins contributed to this story.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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