New Public Health Education Campaign Seeks to Help Parents Protect Michigan Children from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Michigan and national public health experts, physicians, hospitals and a private foundation have launched the “I Vaccinate” public health education campaign to help parents protect their children from vaccine-preventable diseases that cause serious illnesses and can kill.

I Vaccinate, designed with input from Michigan mothers, provides the facts parents need to make informed decisions about vaccinations. Most parents today have never seen first-hand the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases have on a child, a family or community. Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children and teens from 16 potentially harmful diseases. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, may require hospitalization, or even be deadly—especially in infants and young children.

Michigan’s childhood immunization rate is among the nation’s worst—ranking 43th lowest in the U.S. for children ages 19 to 35 months, according to the 2015 National Immunization Survey. Data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry show that only 54% of children ages 19 to 35 months and 29% of teens 13 to 18 years old are up-to-date on all recommended immunizations.

I Vaccinate was announced on March 20 at a Lansing news conference attended by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the Franny Strong Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, Michigan hospitals and many other groups that advocate for public and children’s health. The campaign was conceived by the Franny Strong Foundation and is funded primarily by MDHHS and the foundation. The Michigan Association of Broadcasters has generously adopted I Vaccinate as one of its public service campaigns.

“Michigan’s low immunization rates threaten the health of all residents. We’re seeing the unfortunate return of vaccine-preventable diseases in Michigan because some parents are choosing not to vaccinate based on misinformation,” said Eden Wells, MD, MDHHS Chief Medical Executive. “We know parents have questions and they want to do what’s best to protect their children. The I Vaccinate campaign helps parents make an informed decision to protect their children and others around them through vaccination.”

The Franny Strong Foundation is dedicated to boosting childhood immunization rates by giving parents access to science-based facts that demonstrate vaccines are safe and effective. The foundation was founded by Veronica and Sean McNally of Oakland County in memory of the couple’s daughter, Francesca, who died of whooping cough at age 3 months in 2012.

“Parents want to make the best choices to protect their children,” Veronica McNally said. “When it comes to vaccines, Michigan moms told us they want the facts and the science, and they want to be able to find that information in two places: on the internet and in their doctor’s office. I Vaccinate gives Michigan parents easy online access to the facts about vaccine safety and effectiveness and uses other communications strategies to reach parents as they decide how to best protect their kids.”

The CDC estimates that, in the United States, vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years, saving nearly $1.4 trillion in total societal costs.

“Rates of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles are at record low levels, thanks to high vaccination rates,” said Melinda Wharton, MD, Director of the Immunization Services Division at CDC. “But vaccine-preventable diseases can quickly spread when they reach groups of susceptible people. This highlights the need to achieve and maintain high vaccination coverage in all communities. Following the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule is the best way to protect children against serious diseases. We commend Michigan’s efforts to better educate parents about the importance of timely immunizations.”

Through easy access to evidence-based vaccine information, the I Vaccinate campaign strives to improve Michigan’s pediatric immunization rate to reach the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80% coverage (this goal includes coverage for 4 doses of Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis; 3 doses of Polio; 1 dose of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella; 3 doses of Haemophilus influenzae type b; 3 doses of Hepatitis B; 1 dose of Varicella (Chickenpox); and 4 doses of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine among 19-35 month olds). Currently, the state is at 74.9% for this vaccine series.

MAFP urges our members to use the website as a resource for parents and others who are seeking the facts and information they need to protect Michigan children against vaccine-preventable diseases. As the I Vaccinate team creates additional education tools in the coming months, MAFP will share them with our members.