Mid-Michigan doctors urging parents to get kids vaccinated ahead of holiday season

It’s the time of year again when families are gathering for the holidays.
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 6:38 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - It’s the time of year again when families are gathering for the holidays.

Doctors are warning parents to take steps to protect their children at home and in the classroom. This comes just as the state’s childhood vaccination rates hit their lowest point since 2011.

As numbers continue to decline, health officials urge parents to act now. However, they said misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines continue to drive the decrease in immunization rates.

In 2017, more than 75% of kids in Michigan completed the recommended doses of primary vaccines. Fast forward to today, that number has dropped to just 66%. According to the experts, low vaccination rates are leaving communities vulnerable to deadly diseases that can be prevented.

“My children get the vaccinations that they are required to get for school. Outside of that, if it is not a requirement, I do not require them to get those.” Iesha Westbrook is a mother of four. She said her own personal experience with newer vaccines is the reason why her kids aren’t vaccinated against the flu, RSV, or COVID.

“My husband, he’s actually, he’s fully vaccinated and he got COVID twice. The second time was worse and that was after the vaccines.” Westbrook said she noticed she would only get sick when she would get the flu shot. So, she stopped getting them.

Dr. Steve Martin, Pediatric Critical Care Physician at Sparrow said childhood vaccination rates here in Michigan are a lot lower than they should be. “Obviously we’d shoot for over 90% but we’re not quite there.”

Dr. Martin said myths about vaccines are keeping childhood vaccination rates low across the state. He said he takes the opportunity to educate parents on the benefit.

“With COVID, there was early on a concern about the vaccine hurting patient’s hearts. That’s been shown to be less likely to happen when you got the vaccine than when you didn’t. With flu, people will often say I got the flu from the vaccine. That can’t happen based on the way the vaccine’s made.”

He said while the vaccines are seasonal, their benefits are year round. “So it’s important to get them because there is some lasting immunity. Obviously it’s their choice, but I feel it’s very important to have.”

For Westbrook, she said whether or not to get vaccinated is a personal decision but she said she’s taking steps to make sure her family is safe and healthy as the holidays approach.

“We’re really big on having a healthy environment. I own a cleaning company so I like to keep things cleaned, sanitized. Really big on hand washing.”

In a classroom setting, health officials look for a 90% vaccination rate. They said having less than that could create an environment where diseases can quickly spread.

In Mid-Michigan, Clinton County has the highest vaccination rate at 75%. Eaton County has the lowest vaccination rate of about 66%.

To get your family vaccinated in time for holiday gatherings, you can schedule your appointment here.

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