Since Michigan has one of the highest rates of vaccine-waiver requests in the US, according to the CDC, many are concerned about the health of their school-age children. The number of parents who have asked not to have their children vaccinated has grown steadily since 2009, increasing 23% over the last 5 years — and parents are worried about what their children will be exposed to.
Jennifer Vanlaar, writing for the IJ Review, says the parents who are refusing to have their children immunized are the “affluent, well-educated, organic produce-buying” residents of Michigan. The flip side is that now, in 21 Michigan counties, which comprise 41% of the population of the state, residents are at high risk for being infected with whooping cough or measles, the most contagious diseases. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Medical Health, said:
“A recent outbreak in Traverse City shut down a 1,200-student charter school for a week, infected students at 14 other school buildings in the region, and has sickened dozens of people and forced hundreds into quarantine.
The culprit was pertussis — also known as whooping cough — a disease once thought to be nearly eradicated.”
“Last week, the other shoe dropped in Grand Traverse: Two residents were diagnosed with measles, the most contagious disease known to man and one that can have serious complications.”
Davis adds that he is perplexed when people ask him if there is an immunization for the Enterovirus D-68, or for Ebola, yet do not vaccinate their kids. He believes that if parents saw an outbreak of polio or cases of tetanus they would better understand why vaccines are so important.
In Allegan County, almost 30 cases of pertussis, a serious and contagious disease of the upper respiratory system, have been reported since August, with a new case being reported in Kent County. With five more cases of measles this week in the Traverse City area, many are questioning whether the cause is that too many parents are not vaccinating their young ones, writes Josh Sidorowicz, reporting for WXMI-TV. However, Suzanne Waltman, founder of the Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines, or MOM, has been a strong supporter of giving parents the choice of whether or not to immunize their children.
“I really think all rights of all individuals have to be respected when it comes to healthcare, you just don’t have a right to force someone to take a drug against their will, what else can we force an individual to do then.”
The Michigan Department of Community Health is rolling out new guidelines on Jan. 1, which will make it more difficult for parents opt out of immunizations. The requirements will be that parents will need waivers certified by their local health departments in order to bypass vaccinations.
The new protocol will consist of a conversation between parents and their health department officials and the signing of a certificate that ensures that they have been told of the risk of not immunizing, both for their children and the community in which they live. Many states allow opting out of vaccinations only on the basis of religious objection, says Tracy Samilton of Michigan Radio.
Two children from Traverse City, who had not been vaccinated, traveled to the Philippines where a measles epidemic was taking place.Upon their return, they infected three other children, who had not been vaccinated, in Traverse City. The symptoms of measles are like those of the flu. With measles, a person will suffer from high fever, and a rash, with complications that can be life-threatening, such as pneumonia, encephalitis, hospitalization, and ultimately, possible death. High rates of immunization can usually protect those who are not vaccinated, an effect called the “herd immunity.”
However, reports Robin Erb for the Detroit Free Press, Waltman is of the opinion that research on the long-tern effects of vaccinations is still incomplete, and she worries that as immunity is built in a population, the diseases are getting stronger. This would not happen, she explains, if the diseases were naturally contracted and fended off. She says that she had mumps and measles and “she is still alive.” Waltman’s priority is to protect parent’s freedom to make their own choices.