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Michigan's young child immunization rates lowest in years

Spectrum Health
A vial of the COVID vaccine. (Photo: Spectrum Health)

In more than half of all counties in Michigan, fewer than 70% of young children are fully immunized, and some vaccination rates for toddlers (kids 19-36 months old) are at the lowest they’ve been since 2016.

In more than half the counties in the state, fewer than 70% of toddlers are now fully immunized against certain serious and potentially even deadly diseases.

Immunization rates worldwide dropped in 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Michigan’s still haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to state data.

“It would appear that we are still dealing with a decrease in normal activities,” says Veronica McNally, president of the Franny Strong Foundation. The foundation is named for her three-month-old daughter, Francesca, who died of whooping cough in 20-12. “And that really impacted our wellness visits where our children were getting vaccinated on time. So it's the combination, I think, of the disruption of normal activities and there is a potential for misinformation contributing to some of these lower rates as well.”

The lower rates raises the risk of an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases, like the one in Ohio that recently sickened 85 children and hospitalized 36. (None of those children were fully vaccinated, according to data provided by the city of Columbus, Ohio.)

“This was not terribly far away from us,” McNally says. “And the CDC anticipates that we will have imported cases of measles [from overseas, where it’s more common.] …If you are in a situation where you have an individual who's infected with a disease that is easily transmissible, it can spread like wildfire. And that's what we want to make sure parents understand. And that's why we want them to have a conversation with their child's provider to make sure they are caught up on vaccines.”

Copyright 2023 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist and co-host of the Michigan Radio and NPR podcast Believed. The series was widely ranked among the best of the year, drawing millions of downloads and numerous awards. She and co-host Lindsey Smith received the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Judges described their work as "a haunting and multifaceted account of U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s belated arrest and an intimate look at how an army of women – a detective, a prosecutor and survivors – brought down the serial sex offender."