On December 8th, Representative Tom Hooker (R-Byron Center) introduced legislation that will weaken Michigan’s vaccination requirements for school children and restrict the Michigan Health Department’s ability to effectively respond to a reported case of a communicable disease in a school.
The legislation rescinds a recently added rule that requires parents to meet with a local public health official in order to receive a vaccination exemption for their child. It also rescinds the Health Department’s ability to protect unvaccinated school children in the event of a positive report of a communicable disease. Current Michigan law allows for unvaccinated students to be taken out of school for a period of time after a positive case. The law exists to protect those unvaccinated children from latent infection until the school is determined to be safe.
The legislation comes at a time when Michigan is dealing with a significant chicken pox outbreak in Wayne, Calhoun, Grand Traverse and Muskegon counties. Unvaccinated school children are the majority of the reported cases and several have been hospitalized. The outbreak is but another in the growing list of major disease outbreaks in Michigan over the past year.
Chief medical executive with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Eden Wells, spoke through a statement explaining the necessity of proper vaccination and what it has meant for Michigan. “Since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine 20 years ago, the immunization has greatly reduced the incidence of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths related to the disease. Michigan has seen a 97 percent decline in chickenpox in that time. The best thing you can do to protect your loved ones and community against chickenpox is to make sure your family is immunized.”
Michigan was recently named one of the most unprepared states in preventing, diagnosing and responding to disease outbreaks. The study (PDF warning) was prepared with data from the Center for Disease Control by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).