Special Report: Michigan Parents Not Vaccinating Children

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The outbreak of Mumps continues to grow. Now, there are more than 500 confirmed cases nationwide, including many in neighboring states Illinois and Ohio. The CDC says the two dose MMR vaccine has never been more important.

But despite that warning, thousands Michigan parents are choosing to sign vaccine waivers for that immunization and others. News 10's Amanda Malkowski looked into the trend against vaccinating children.

Nearly 10,000 parents of 6th graders sent them to county health departments around Michigan last year. They're vaccine waivers, and parents like Jason Mccammon use them to opt their kids out immunizations.

"I've never been against medicine by any stretch. I think medicine has a lot to offer, for sure. I've always just been a little more skeptical," said Mccammon.

And that skepticism is on the rise. Michigan now has the fourth highest percentage of vaccine exemptions in the country. Wendy Ridenour, the Ingham County Health Department's Immunization Program Supervisor told me most of the parents opting out aren't saying "no" for religious or medical reasons.

"We see most of our waivers in Ingham County are marked as "other." That's pretty open. It can be any kind of reason they don't want it, whether it be the ingredients, too many vaccines, those are the kind of things we see mostly," said Ridenour.

And new outbreaks show the trend of opting out may be having an impact. Pertussis or Whopping Cough effected a thousand people last year in Michigan and led to one death. Measles and Mumps are on the rise nationally for the first time in decades. Meantime, kindergartners in Michigan are opted out of the MMR vaccine or measles, mumps and rubella, more than all but one immunization. They're concerning numbers to the state health department.

"I think that parents today, young parents, haven't seen the polio days and the whooping cough days and diphtheria days, and the importance of vaccines has sort of fallen off. By ensuring that all people are vaccinated, we get something called herd immunity so that society is protected," said Bob Swanson, Director for Division of Immunizations, MDCH.

Not all parents are buying that.

"I don't get swayed by... and I think a lot of it is fear mongering. They do put a lot into parents, and it switches right into the heart strings," said Mccammon.

Health officials say one of the reasons why there might be so many waivers in Michigan is that the process is very easy. All parents have to do is sign one of these and give a reason.

"Some states have laws in place that require education before a philosophical waiver, others need that to be certified by a physician," said Swanson.

In Michigan, you don't need either. The choice rests solely in the parent's hands.

Measles cases are also on the rise. The CDC reported 129 cases in just the first four months of 2014. That's more than any year since 1996