New Vaccine Bill Means Safer Schools, Healthier Students

Bi-partisan Safe Schools – Healthy Students Act Extends School Immunization Requirements to Include 12th Grade

June 25, 2020Overcoming the COVID-19 public health crisis means taking meaningful steps to protect our students and schools from vaccine preventable diseases. That’s why patient, physician, nurse, and healthcare leaders from across Michigan celebrate the introduction of bipartisan Senate Bills 979-981, the Safe Schools–Healthy Students Act—to ensure an accurate record of immunization status be extended to high school students the way state law already requires for students entering kindergarten and 7th grade.

Today, state law requires parents provide proof of vaccinations before entering kindergarten, 7th grade, or before entering a school for the first time.

The Safe Schools–Healthy Students Act requires parents or students to provide a certificate of immunization in 12th grade, too. The bill package also directs Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to use as a reference immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to better protect students and improve herd immunity to deadly, preventable diseases.

The bipartisan legislation does not remove or change the right of parents to exempt their children from any immunization due to religious or philosophical objections.

“As students, parents, and teachers begin planning for a new school year and a new normal, keeping schools safe and students healthy is our number one priority,” said state Senator Curtis Hertel (D- East Lansing), the bill’s sponsor. “COVID-19 reminds us every day of the importance of immunizations, and the tragic loss of life that can occur when they are not available or utilized. This legislation is a critical tool to ensure students are protected when they return to the classroom.”

Vaccine-preventable diseases are on the rise in Michigan, even before the arrival of COVID-19. Over the past 5 years, Michigan families have experienced:

  • 32 meningitis cases
  • 69 cases of measles
  • 214 cases of mumps
  • 2,834 cases of whooping cough

“Immunizations offer protection from serious preventable infections and community and school outbreaks,” said Dr. Sharon Swindell, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics–Michigan Chapter. “They’re safe, proven, and effective. Unfortunately, even before the COVID-19 public health crisis, Michigan experienced a resurgence in vaccine-preventable diseases. The Safe Schools–Healthy Students Act is an important tool to protect our children.”

Voters overwhelmingly support strengthening the state’s laws requiring childhood vaccinations. According to a recent poll by EPIC-MRA, 71% of voters think Michigan’s laws should be stronger and require more vaccinations, and 65% support a requirement that students be fully immunized before attending state colleges and universities.

“Researchers are working hard on a vaccine for COVID-19, and we’re fortunate that many of the world’s most serious diseases are already vaccine-preventable,” said Amy Zaagman, executive director, Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health. “Now is the time to ensure Michigan students can be protected from these deadly diseases. We’re grateful Republicans and Democrats are standing together to support common sense reforms that put the lives of students first.”