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New School Year Brings New Vaccination Push

The vaccine debate took off last spring as a measles outbreak spread across the country. It is once again a topic as school begins in Northern Michigan.

Schools would like their students vaccinated…so would the state and health departments but it has always been a parent’s right to refuse vaccinations with a waiver.

With school starting this time of year…now is the time to either get the shots or fill out the paperwork.

“It’s difficult for us to combat all that misinformation,” says Robin Walicki, immunization coordinator for the District #10 Health Department.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question facing parents of kindergartners and 7th graders. Those are the ages measured for full vaccinations in school.

“The schools need to have 90% of their kids up-to-date on vaccines or have a waiver in place,” says Walicki.

Schools would rather have everyone vaccinated but if not, it can be costly if parents don’t even fill out the waiver forms.

“If they don’t hit that 90% in November,” says Walicki, “And 95% there in February, they are at risk of losing 5% of their funding.”

The measles outbreak in parts of the state in the spring sparked the vaccine debate once again. Some believe they contain toxins or could cause autism, while others don’t want their child at risk by being around unvaccinated classmates.

“There’s always going to be that tiny percent that could be susceptible to disease so if a non-vaccinated child gets sick they can spread it to people who may not have gotten that complete coverage,” says Walicki.

Most counties in Northern Michigan have about 5% waiver rates with some pockets popping up towards the double digits. Health departments, like District #10, would like to see all children vaccinated but will at least like to make sure you are making an educated decision.

“We definitely want to have that conversation with people,” says Walicki, “But not violate their rights.”