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New Analysis: Fewer Michigan Kids are Getting Immunizations

There are concerns that immunization rates among Michigan kids are down, as some families have opted to postpone well-child visits to their doctors. (Adobe Stock)
There are concerns that immunization rates among Michigan kids are down, as some families have opted to postpone well-child visits to their doctors. (Adobe Stock)
July 15, 2020

LANSING, Mich. -- Some policy analysts believe new childhood vaccination data in Michigan show cause for concern.

According to a new report, statewide immunization rates over the past decade were at their lowest in 2009, with only four Michigan counties with rates higher than 75%. Noah Urban, director of projects for Data Driven Detroit, explained that the rates gradually rose to a high in 2017 before falling in 2018.

"The immunization rate decreased again from 2018 to 2019," he said, "and we're assuming that, due to the current pandemic, vaccinations have dropped again for nearly all children, as parents have been taking kids in to pediatrician visits less frequently."

Data for 2020 isn't available yet statewide, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said national immunization rates have fallen in the pandemic, creating a higher risk of spread for other communicable diseases.

The report, released by Data Driven Detroit and the Michigan League for Public Policy's "Kids Count" project, also found vaccination rates have plateaued or dipped in recent years in a number of Michigan counties.

Last year saw the greatest number of measles cases in the United States since 1992, which Urban said is connected to a decline in vaccinations. He said immunizations are about protecting public health.

"Seventy-percent herd immunity for some diseases might be OK; for others, it might not. So, we generally want to see those rates as high as possible, so that herd immunity is established," he said. "And then also, kids who can't get vaccinated due to other health conditions, they're also protected."

Urban said the hope is the data can help Michiganders better understand the issue from a local perspective, and make informed choices about their children's health.

"If I'm a parent in Detroit, which schools have a higher vaccination waiver rates, and which ones have less? That's a very helpful tool for someone who might have an immunocompromised child, or even somebody who is just concerned about that, to be able to access that information," he said.

Some families don't immunize children for religious reasons, and a growing anti-vaccine movement has questioned the safety or effectiveness of some immunizations in recent years. Experts advise parents to talk with their child's pediatrician about any concerns.

The report is online at storymaps.arcgis.com.

Disclosure: Michigan League for Public Policy/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI