The beginning of school means that it is time for vaccinations, but many parents are questioning whether they should get their kids vaccinated at all. Among the states with the highest number of school kids not receiving vaccinations because of waivers based on religious or philosophical reasons, Michigan ranks fourth. This year, however, the state has a new rule that requires parents to attend a class at the local health department if they want to get a waiver for their children, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Aftab Borka, reporting for the Daily Tribune, says that in 2013 over 10% of kindergartners had vaccination waivers in Oakland County, a number higher than the state average of near 6%. Oakland also ranks among the highest in the state for student vaccination waivers.
Despite the high interest in opting out of required vaccinations, Dr. Sanford Vieder of Lakes Urgent Care in West Bloomfield encourages parents to have their children vaccinated.
"I, both on a personal level and on a scientific level, encourage parents to vaccinate children. I believe in the vaccines," said Vieder. "Frankly, a lot of rebuttal in terms of problems that are caused by vaccines has really not been shown to be scientifically true."
He knows there are parents who think the vaccinations are linked to autism. This is a misconception, in his scientific opinion, and there is no link between the two. It is possible, he explains, that some people could have allergic reactions to the vaccine, just as some have allergic reactions to a certain food or medication. He believes parents should have all the relevant information before making a final decision.
"The benefits of the vaccination far outweigh any of the risks involved," said Vieder, adding that the risks of not getting the vaccinations include the child becoming sick or not being allowed into the school if there is any outbreak of a disease.
The new Michigan rule applies to children attending a licensed day care, a preschool, a Head Start program, kindergarten, seventh grade, or those entering a new school district. Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, wants parents to get all the information they can so they can make an informed decision regarding whether to vaccinate, reports Lon Higgins of the Detroit Free Press.
One parent interviewed said she is opposed to the fact that the state is questioning her rights, or her belief system, as a parent. Suzanne Waltman, president of Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines, says parents who oppose the vaccinations are doing so because they have researched the pros and cons and are making a very educated choice. However, Dr. Kevin Lokar, Medical Director at the Macomb County Health Department, seems to want the same thing, and said:
"We're still not taking away the option for those parents who are adamant about signing the waivers. We want the parents to be informed when they make the decisions."
In a video interview with WXYZ-TV, Dr. Wells says the class being given to parents who are choosing not to have their children vaccinated is actually more like a counseling session with a public health message. She believes that the meetings may help those opposed to vaccinations better understand of the reasons behind the vaccination mandate.
However, in the same interview, Research Director Mary Toko of Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines disagrees, saying that the waiver form which has been used in Michigan for 30 years worked effectively, and the new requirement of attending a meeting implies that parents who oppose vaccinations are not able to make an informed decision on their own.
Toko also argues that the form itself includes language that informs parents that if they choose not to have their children vaccinated, they will be putting their children, and other children as well, in jeopardy. She reports that most of the parents who opt out of the vaccination program have at least a four-year degree and have studied the issue very carefully.