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Childhood immunizations continue to decline

In Kent County, around 83% of children had their recommended vaccinations at the end of 2019. Now, it's 77%.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — More than 30% of Michigan children have not received their recommended childhood vaccinations, like polio or pertussis vaccines. That's according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), showing 69.3% of child coverage for the seven most common vaccines. 

In Kent County, it is a similar story. While the immunization rate for children is higher than the state, Mary Wisinski, the immunization supervisor at Kent County Health Department (KCHD), said it is still concerning. 

"In Kent County, we were at about 83% to 84%," said Wisinski. "We're now down to 77%. That's a huge drop." 

The 83% to 84% was at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020. She said the pandemic has played a huge role in decreasing the vaccination numbers. Many parents are still not taking their children out and about as often, or have concerns to take them to the doctor's office. Wisinski assures parents it is a safe and healthy thing to do. 

"I think parents just got used to the bubble that they were living in," said Wisinski. "And now again, we're seeing the Delta variant on the rise, and parents are afraid to take their kids out."

Also, vaccine hesitancy on the whole has grown since the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

"I think what's happening is we're seeing the people that still have questions about the vaccine, about safety," said Wisinski. "Or finding that social media is doing us a great disservice by putting things online that are not true."

The result of a decrease in vaccination rates is a loss of herd immunity, or community immunity. Wisinski said that is dangerous, because it means diseases we think are eradicated could become a part of our lives once again. 

MDHHS is also urging Michiganders to get their children up-to-date on vaccinations for disease like measles, mumps, chicken pox and more. 

"I'm old enough to know people who are survivors of polio," said Wisinski. "I worked in a neonatal intensive care unit and watched kids die from pneumonia, and from this haemophilus influenza, which we now have a vaccine for. And so, I've seen it, but a lot of people haven't."

Wisinski urged parents to talk to their child's doctor or a health care professional they trust for correct vaccination information.

To learn more about where to get vaccines for children on Kent County, click here.

RELATED VIDEO:  POLL: 51% of parents unlikely to vaccinate younger kids

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