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Doctors, Public Health Officials Urge Michiganders to Put Immunizations on Their Fall To-Do Lists

Tuesday, August 21, 2018  
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LANSING, Mich. — Following one of the worst flu seasons in recent history and with other vaccine-preventable diseases still occurring in alarming numbers around the state and nation, doctors and public health experts today urged Michiganders of all ages to get up-to-date on recommended immunizations.

 

At a news conference today at the Ingham County Health Department in Lansing, physicians, nurses and public health experts said Michiganders should take steps now, before winter and the start of school, to protect themselves and their children against vaccine-preventable diseases.

 

“Last year’s flu season was the worst in recent history for Michigan and nationally, and especially devastating for kids,” said Terri Adams, section manager for the Division of Immunizations, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). “In addition, Michigan has the most cases of all states in the worst hepatitis A outbreak in the country, and we continue to see cases of whooping cough and measles pop up each year around the state. Now is the time to get up-to-date on vaccines that can head off potentially life-threatening illnesses that can make you or your loved ones very sick. Put vaccines on your fall to-do list before the start of school, winter and the flu and communicable disease season.”

 

This past season, two children died in Michigan from the flu, and the state recorded 1,623 pediatric and adult flu-related hospitalizations. Nationally, there were 172 pediatric flu-related deaths—the highest number of flu-related deaths in children reported during a single flu season (excluding pandemics). About 80 percent of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Michigan is also experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A associated with a national outbreak, with more than 870 cases confirmed, and 27 deaths, from August 2016 to July 2018. Ten cases of measles have been confirmed in Michigan so far this year, the highest number in 20 years. A recent case in Michigan involved a 22-year-old unvaccinated woman who contracted measles while traveling in Europe and transmitted the disease to six unvaccinated siblings in the home.

In June, Calhoun County health officials declared a whooping cough outbreak after confirming nine cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, with two additional reported cases still undergoing investigation. As of July 31, there were 285 pertussis cases reported in Michigan in 2018, with more than 20 additional cases still under investigation. There were 749 cases of whooping cough in Michigan in 2017, according to provisional data from MDHHS. Whooping cough is especially dangerous for babies and young children.

 

“Doctors and other medical professionals agree, and the science overwhelmingly confirms, that vaccines are safe and effective at preventing diseases and protecting entire communities from outbreaks,” said Dr. Renee Canady, chief executive officer of the Michigan Public Health Institute. “Now is the time for adults and children across Michigan to make sure their vaccines are current to protect themselves, their families, their friends, their schools, their places of employment and worship, anywhere people are together from very serious illnesses.”

 

When people and entire communities let vaccine rates slip, serious health problems can surface in people who were not vaccinated and also in the small number of people who, for medical and other health reasons, can’t be vaccinated. When enough people in a large population are vaccinated (generally more than 90 percent), it protects the small number of people who are not vaccinated. This is called “herd immunity” or “community immunity.”

 

“Although vaccination may seem like an individual choice, it’s a serious decision that has the potential to help or harm entire communities,” said Loretta V. Bush, chief executive officer of the Michigan Primary Care Association. “Staying up to date on vaccinations helps protect everyone, especially newborns, children, and people who are medically unable to receive immunizations.”

 

“It’s normal to have questions—it makes you a good parent—but make sure you are getting answers from credible sources,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “Talk to your doctor or visit your local health department, and explore resources like IVaccinate.org, which provides Michigan parents with information and tools based on medical science and research to help them make informed decisions about vaccines and protect their kids.”

 

Since its launch, the IVaccinate.org website has been visited more than 100,000 times, averaging around 1,500 visits per week. The most traffic goes to the frequently asked questions section, where parents can find answers to common questions based on credible medical research and sources to learn more.

 

The I Vaccinate campaign is a joint public-private effort of the MDHHS and the Franny Strong Foundation. The campaign highlights that there is medical consensus on vaccines—they are safe and effective at preventing disease and protect entire communities from outbreaks. The campaign aims to create a positive conversation surrounding vaccines and the reasons why most parents do fully vaccinate their children.

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