Michigan Family Physicians and Principals Urge Families to Get Kids Updated on Vaccines Before School Starts

Children behind on vaccines puts safe return to in-person learning at risk

July 19, 2021 - Now is the time to get kids up to date on routine vaccinations before in-person school starts again, Michigan family physicians and school principals urged families today.

Michigan Academy of Family Physicians has teamed up with the Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association to stress the urgency of getting children and teens immunized to avoid the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases in the classroom.

“Kids are exposed to thousands of antigens every day that can cause illnesses, “said Dr. Mark Hamed, president of MAFP and medical director of the departments of Emergency Medicine and Hospital Medicine at McKenzie Health System in Sandusky. “Without the protection of vaccines, diseases such as measles, whooping cough, and COVID-19 could easily be spread. We are urging parents to get their kids up to date on the recommended vaccines before the school year begins.”

Michigan saw an alarming drop in the rate of routine childhood immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, less than 70 percent of Michigan children have received vaccines on schedule as recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Family Physicians. The City of Detroit and Oscoda County have the lowest childhood vaccination rates in the state, both plummeting below 50 percent.

“Safely returning to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year means doing everything possible to protect students from communicable diseases and illnesses, which is why ensuring children and teens are up to date on their vaccines is critical,” said MEMSPA Executive Director Paul Liabenow. “Michigan students can’t afford any more lost learning time due to the spread of diseases.”

The dip in vaccinations has left many children and teens unvaccinated against as many as 16 serious childhood diseases that are extremely contagious. For example, one carrier of measles is likely to infect 12 to 18 others and, for pertussis, also known as whooping cough, eight out of 10 people will be infected when exposed to the disease.

“It’s always better to prevent disease than to treat it, so we encourage parents to make getting their kids updated on vaccines a priority during the remainder of the summer,” said Dr. Tina Tanner, Primary Care Medical Director of Muskegon and North Ottawa counties at Mercy Health Physicians Partners. “We also urge parents with kids aged 12 years and older to get them vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death. The CDC has approved the administration of routine childhood vaccines at the same time as the COVID vaccine.”

Studies show that family physicians are trusted sources of science-based vaccine information and are the preferred providers of vaccines. In fact, a national survey conducted by the African American Research Collaborative in partnership with the Commonwealth Fund found 44 percent of Latino and 53 percent of Black respondents would prefer to get vaccinated in their doctor’s office than elsewhere. The CDC reports that a doctor’s strong recommendation is “closely correlated with vaccination.”

“To have a successful school year and ensure our students are ready to learn, students must be healthy and protected and that means being vaccinated,” said Ryan Schrock, elementary principal for Glen Lake Community Schools in Leelanau County.