Did you know that only 56 percent of Michigan toddlers are up-to-date on their vaccinations? According to ivaccinate.org, low immunization rates in the state threaten the health of all residents.
I Vaccinate, a campaign of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Franny Strong Foundation help raise awareness of the importance of vaccinations, and provides information and tools based on real medical science and research to help Michigan parents protect their kids. The I Vaccinate campaign includes a website, social media and televised public service ads encouraging parents with questions about vaccines to seek out more information. The goal of the program is to increase vaccination rates among vulnerable populations.
The Franny Strong Foundation was established in 2012 in honor of Francesca Marie, who lost her life to pertussis (the medical term for whooping cough) when she was just two months old. According to its website, Francesca’s battle with this terrible disease was short, but amazingly heroic. Her symptoms began with a mild, almost unnoticeable cough. She died just nine days after first showing symptoms. The Foundation’s mission is “to promote pertussis awareness and prevention through ongoing research and education for the public and health care professionals.”
Mary Baird, Genesee County Health Department Public Health Nurse Supervisor, says that many young parents in Genesee County and the U.S. have never seen the devastating effect that diseases like measles or whooping cough can have on a family or a community. “The truth is, childhood diseases still exist,” says the nurse supervisor. “There was a rise in whooping cough in Genesee County, but it’s hard to pinpoint the cause. It’s likely that babies who haven’t yet been immunized are getting it from adults.” It is recommended that adults get the whooping cough booster shot; but they are not getting them, she adds. “We tell pregnant moms to please make sure that adults who have contact with their babies are vaccinated.” Pregnant moms are being vaccinated for whooping cough in their third trimester. “It gives the babies a little more protection,” Baird reports. The whooping cough vaccine can’t be given to infants until they are two months old.
Baird reports that in Genesee County, children ages 24-36 months are 68 percent up-to-date on their vaccinations. For “herd immunity” to exist (meaning the more people vaccinated, the more people protected), 98 percent of the people must be current on vaccinations, she explains. “It’s a problem,” she adds.
GCHD works very hard to inform residents about the importance of vaccinations and sends out reminders to parents. “But we are losing ground,” Baird admits. However, the waiver rate (of parents who choose not to have their child vaccinated), is down to two percent in Genesee County, one of the lowest in the state. “But it’s still two percent, and Lapeer County is at nine percent,” she says.
GCHD strives to make it convenient and affordable for Genesee County residents to get their kids immunized at schools, senior centers and various other off-site clinics in Genesee County, such as the Burton Health Clinic, Baird reports. If a parent doesn’t have health insurance to cover immunizations, the GCHD will help them enroll in a plan. GCHD’s Women Infant Children (WIC) clinics also offer childhood immunizations.