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Michigan childhood vaccination rates lowest since 2011

Michigan is seeing some of the lowest routine childhood vaccination rates in a decade, according to state health officials.

Vaccination rates for kids ages 19 to 36 months have fallen below 70% in more than half the counties in the state, according tostate datafrom June 2023. “And we really talk about 70% as being the minimum to provide herd immunity, so that we're not putting school communities at risk for outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases,” Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said in a virtual press conference Thursday.

Parents need to know this school year is different, she added.

“Michigan's childhood vaccination rates are the lowest they've been since 2011. In 2023, only 66.5% of children between the ages of 19 to 36 months had completed the recommended dose of primary vaccine, and that's compared to over 75% in 2017. We really saw those rates of routine childhood immunizations drop during the pandemic.

Families should not only make sure their kid is up to date on vaccinations, but also check out their school’s immunization data as well, she said.

“And I think that's really important to understand because there are children for medical reasons who can't mount immunity because of underlying medical conditions; things like leukemias or organ transplants. And we want to make sure that parents have the tools to recognize the risks that their children are facing.”

The lower vaccination rates increase the risk of an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases, Bagdasarian said.

“That's what they saw in Ohio last fall with that large measles outbreak where 36 children ended up needing to be hospitalized. And if you can think about the burden on those families, and on those children, of having to spend time in a hospital for something that was entirely preventable.”

State health officials are directing parents with questions about vaccinations to go to ivaccinate.org.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.