As COVID-19 vaccine rate increases, Michigan’s vaccination rate for other illnesses falls

Flint Township pediatrician is very concerned as vaccine rates fall below the herd immunity threshold
Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 7:24 PM EDT
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MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) - Health officials say getting the COVID-19 vaccine is essential for getting back to normal, but as these vaccinations ramp up others are falling by the wayside.

Earlier this week, state health officials sounded the alarm that childhood vaccination rates have dropped to dangerously low levels. The pandemic is to blame.

Dr. Faisal Mawri, a pediatrician in Flint Township, is very concerned about the trend. He said another potential health crisis could be looming if vaccination rates continue falling.

Administering vaccines to children is practically in Mawri’s DNA. He said people believe those vaccines aren’t as important nowadays, which is far from the truth.

“We may be in an era where measles may come back,” Mawri said. “We may have preventable diseases that we routinely immunize against re-emerge.”

Just how serious is this? Back in the 1950s, there was an annual average of more than 500,000 cases of measles and nearly 500 deaths associated with the illness. Mawri said Michiganders don’t want a repeat of that by any means.

According to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, vaccine rates have fallen below 70% in more than half of Michigan’s 83 counties. Herd immunity is reached with a vaccination level of more than 70% for certain illnesses, according to health experts.

In Mid-Michigan, both Genesee and Lapeer counties have been hovering just underneath 70% vaccination rates the last six months. Clare County is much lower at 59.3% and Gladwin County is even lower at 55.9%.

“I’ve been practicing for almost 25 years and I’ve never seen the immunization rate as low as they are currently,” Mawri said.

Pediatricians like Mawri typically administer childhood vaccines at wellness check exams after birth. But because of COVID-19, there haven’t been as many exams in-person out of fear of the coronavirus.

“It’s up to the parents whether they want to administer the immunization or not, but unfortunately it is the children who suffer at the end of the day,” Mawri said.

He reminds parents that bringing children into the doctor’s office is completely safe and warns against a mentality that these vaccines aren’t as important as say the coronavirus vaccine. Mawri said all vaccines are important to children’s health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a vaccine schedule online showing which shots children needs from birth to age 18, along with the best time to get them. The agency says vaccinating children not only protects them, but also everyone around them.

Many health departments around Mid-Michigan offer immunizations free of charge.

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