Michigan families urged to catch children up on needed vaccines

Childhood vaccines have declined during COVID-19 pandemic

(Journal stock image)

LANSING — Fewer children in Michigan than usual are currently up-to-date on routine vaccines due to postponed well-child visits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The percentage of five-month-olds in Michigan who were fully up to date on all recommended vaccines was less than half in May this year, a decrease from about two-thirds during 2016 through 2019, according to data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry cited in an MDHHS news release.

Furthermore, only 53.1% of Michigan children 19-35 months of age were fully immunized with recommended vaccines, according to MCIR data cited in the release.

It’s important to realize, officials said, that decreased immunization rates put Michiganders at risk for disease outbreaks, and it’s particularly critical amid the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure everyone is protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Due to this, the MDHHS is urging families to get their children and teens caught up on all recommended vaccines as soon as possible, MDHHS officials said in a release.

“It is concerning that so many children are behind on their vaccinations and susceptible to preventable diseases,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS, said in the release. “Vaccines are essential. It is important for caregivers to contact their healthcare provider to get children caught up on needed vaccines.”

MDHHS officials also say it will be critical for as many people as possible to get the flu vaccine this year due to the pandemic.

“It will also be vital for everyone ages six months and older to get their flu vaccine this fall,” Khaldun said in the release. “The influenza vaccine will help keep Michiganders out of the hospital for flu-related illnesses, saving lives and protecting our hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

While some may have concerns about safely visiting a health care provider amid the pandemic, many health care providers are implementing procedures that “ensure patients can safely come in for well visits and to get caught up on immunizations,” the release states. These include checking in from the car, limiting how many people can accompany a child and requiring face masks.

The CDC has also released extensive guidance for health care providers on how to continue providing immunization services safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, as ensuring immunization services are maintained or reinitiated “is essential for protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks, and reducing the burden of respiratory illness during the upcoming influenza season,” the release states.

Parents should contact their child’s health care provider to find out what vaccines their child needs, discuss the safety measures put in place to protect patients and schedule an appointment.

If insurance coverage has been disrupted or there is concern about being able to afford childhood vaccines, the Michigan Vaccines for Children program can help. It provides vaccines for children through age 18 years who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, underinsured, American Indian or Alaska Native.

Parents can contact their health care provider or local health department for more information. The Marquette County Health Department can be reached at 906-475-9977. The MDHHS advises that health departments remain active with the COVID-19 response and may provide limited services at this time; call ahead for details.

For more information about immunizations, visit IVaccinate.org.


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