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Michigan pediatricians want kids vaccinated before going back to in-person learning

young Black teen receives a vaccine in his right arm
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According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 31% of Michigan children are not up to date on CDC-recommended childhood vaccinations.

Those vaccinations include MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and DTaP (diptheria, tetanus, and whooping cough or pertussis).

Physicians and school administrators across the state want kids up to date on all their shots when they come back to school in-person this fall. 

Dr. Mark Hamed is the president of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, and the director of emergency medical services for McKenzie Health.

"Kids are exposed to thousands of microbes that can cause disease every day. Without the protection of vaccine, these illnesses, such as measles, can easily spread. For example, one carrier of measles can infect up to 18 people. So it’s extremely important that children get caught up on their vaccines before going back to in-person learning," he says.

He says parents may have avoided taking their kids into a doctor's office for checkups and routine vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic for fear of catching or spreading the virus. Now, Dr. Hamed says, it's time to schedule those appointments.

Dr. Tina Tanner is the primary care medical director for Mercy Health in West Michigan. She says it's important to make appointments for kids as soon as possible, because it's likely there's a bit of a wait time ahead.

"I know that my offices are making well child visits a priority for the very reason that we feel that getting children vaccinated prior to starting school, so that we can avoid any outbreaks and keep our children in school and learning, is very important."

Both Tanner and Hamed agree that children over 12 should also get the COVID-19 vaccine as well, to prevent any school related outbreaks and to protect those younger students who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

School administrators are also encouraging children to get back on their regular vaccine schedule and for those eligible to get the COVID vaccine to prevent more learning loss.

Paul Liabenow is the executive director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association. He says the pandemic was difficult, but was a lesson in how easily disease can spread through a school community and disrupt learning.

"Being behind on childhood vaccinations can undoubtedly lead to unnecessary sickness and outbreaks in schools. Plus, the spread of disease leads to the spread leads to lost learning and lost learning time for students, and we don't need any more of that," he says.

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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