Back-to-school Season a Time to Remind Families About Importance of Vaccines

As kids are heading back to school, it’s important to remind families about the seriousness of staying up to date on all immunizations. That's the message state health officials delivered during an I Vaccinate press event held on August 15. The IVaccinate campaign is spearheaded by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Franny Strong Foundation, and Parent Information Network, of which MAFP is a member.

Michigan and 29 other states continue to battle the country’s worst measles outbreak in decades. As of August 8, more than 1,180 measles cases have been confirmed nationwide, with 46 cases confirmed in Michigan since the outbreak began in our state in March. Michigan also continues to experience cases of whooping cough, flu, and other vaccine-preventable diseases each year.

While only a small percentage of Michigan kindergartners (4.55% in 2018) and seventh graders (3.44% in 2018) have vaccination waivers that exempt them from meeting the state’s vaccine requirements for entering school, waivers can be problematic if clustered at the building level. Nearly 400 public and private K-12 schools and 295 daycare programs in Michigan had 10% or more of their students submit a vaccine waiver form in lieu of immunization records in 2017, state records show.

For most vaccine-preventable diseases, when less than 90% of children are vaccinated in a particular school or community, pockets of low vaccination create an environment where vaccine-preventable diseases can take hold and spread. Schools and communities with more vaccination waivers mean fewer children are vaccinated and may not be protected by herd immunity.

As trusted healthcare professionals, family physicians’ strong recommendation to vaccinate can make all the difference. To help physicians communicate effectively with patients about the importance of vaccination, answer questions, and boost confidence in choosing to immunize themselves and their children, the CDC has developed the #HowIRecommend video series. Among the series’ featured physicians is Pamela Rockwell, DO, FAAFP, an MAFP board member and AAFP liaison to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

"The video format for vaccine recommendations is helpful because, in a minute or less, family physicians can see and hear a strong vaccine recommendation delivered and hear the common physician responses given when confronted with patient vaccine hesitancy," said Dr. Rockwell.

The short, informative videos succinctly explain the importance of vaccination for children, adolescents, adults, and mothers. They also address topics such as making an effective recommendation, addressing vaccine safety questions, getting your entire practice on board with vaccination, addressing vaccine hesitancy or refusal, and more.