The rate at which non-medical vaccination waivers are issued in Michigan has fallen nearly 39% from a year ago. The decline is attributed to a new Michigan law requiring that parents seeking non-medical exemptions meet with a local public health official to discuss the facts of vaccines and herd immunity initiatives.
State data shows nearly 8,000 fewer vaccination waivers for children entering Michigan’s schools. The Kindergarten waiver rate has dropped from 5.18 percent to 3.32 percent; the 7th grade rate has dropped from 4.55 percent to 2.78 percent; and the rate for new students to a school district has dropped from 4.28 percent to 2.47 percent.
For Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the meetings are to provide parents with a safe place to ask questions and address any medical concerns they might have. “Things had to adapt for a while, you know, once this rule went into effect. But these weren’t lectures.” But again, she hopes more will be done. “This improvement in our vaccination coverage rates means that more kids are protected from outbreaks and serious vaccine-preventable diseases. Unfortunately we have not eradicated some very serious diseases that affect children and adults alike. We continue to see outbreaks of pertussis, (whooping cough) and chickenpox in areas of Michigan as well as nationwide.”
Kent County Health Department immunization program supervisor Mary Wisinski explained that “our main message is ‘Here’s the information, do you want to talk about this, what are your questions,’ and it’s absolutely not about making them vaccinate their kids. That’s their decision.” Nurses are not told to persuade or make any effort to change a parent’s mind–the meeting is strictly informational.