News & Media

Michigan Health Care Leaders Encourage Parents to Get Children Vaccinated Before Heading Back to School

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"I Vaccinate" Website Provides Vaccination Information Backed by Science

With "Back-to-School" season in full swing, state and local health care experts are encouraging parents to make sure their children are vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule.

"Following the recommended immunization schedule is one of the most important things you can do to keep your child and the children around them safe," said Dr. Eden Wells, MD, Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "We've seen the resurgence of many vaccine-preventable diseases here in Michigan. To address this, we encourage parents with questions or concerns about vaccinations to visit the I Vaccinate website to find answers based on credible medical science."

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.

"As parents, we want to do everything we can to keep our children safe," said Veronica McNally of the Franny Strong Foundation, an organization founded after she lost her 3-month-old daughter to whooping cough in 2012 and partner in the I Vaccinate campaign. "We're proud of the progress I Vaccinate has made in getting accurate information out to parents across the state and the network we are building to empower parents to make the choice to protect their child -- and the children around them -- from vaccine-preventable diseases."

Michigan's childhood immunization rate is among the nation's worst -- ranking 43rd lowest in the United States for children ages 19 to 35 months, according to the 2015 National Immunization Survey. Data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry show that only 56.1 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months and 36 percent of teens 13 to 18 years old are up-to-date on all recommended immunizations.

"Infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated are not protected from many preventable diseases making it critical to protect the entire family, especially school-aged children, through immunizations," said Cheryl Gibson Fountain, MD, a practicing physician and President of the Michigan State Medical Society. "Vaccinating those healthy enough also helps create community immunity, which protects children, seniors, and others battling cancers, heart conditions, and other health challenges."

As parents plan for their kids to head back-to-school, remembering to vaccinate is key to staying healthy. August is National Immunization Awareness Month and Meningococcal Immunization Awareness Month in Michigan, as proclaimed by Governor Snyder. With several recent outbreaks of meningococcal disease on college campuses, including some cases resulting in death, parents and caregivers are encouraged to talk to their healthcare providers about getting children up-to-date on all vaccines, including meningococcal.

"It's important to make sure your child is vaccinated, no matter what age they are," said Alicia Stillman of The Emily Stillman Foundation, who lost her 19-year-old daughter Emily to now vaccine-preventable meningitis B. A vaccine against Meningitis B was not available when Emily lost her life. "I didn't have the ability to protect my daughter, but now vaccinations for diseases like meningitis B are available. Whether they're going back to school or off to college, please vaccinate your students to keep them safe -- and potentially save their life."

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.

"Making sure that your child is up-to-date on their immunizations should be at the top of every back-to-school checklist," said Teresa Holtrop, MD, FAAP, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics - Michigan. "Michigan was once among the best in childhood immunization rates and we can get there again."

The I Vaccinate campaign has the support of many of the major organized medicine and public health groups in Michigan, including the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, Michigan State Medical Society, Michigan Osteopathic Association, Michigan Association of Health Plans, Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners, Michigan Council of Maternal and Child Health, Michigan Association of Local Public Health, and many more.

Since the campaign launch on March 20, more than 29,000 people have visited the I Vaccinate website, with an average of 1,800 visits per week. Visit www.IVaccinate.org to learn more.