Immunization waiver rates drop in Michigan

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LANSING, MI (WLNS) – Michigan’s vaccination exemption policy has really reduced the number of school children opting out of getting shots.

Monica Fochtman is a mother of two, and she says when parents don’t vaccinate their children, it can affect those who can’t be immunized.

Fochtman’s son, Luke, was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. Chemotherapy wiped out his immune system, and he couldn’t get the vaccinations he needed.

“He was fighting hard enough to beat cancer, and the thought that he could have contracted something preventable is incredibly scary to us,” Fochtman said.

But now things aren’t so scary.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says immunization exemption rates fell nearly 40 percent in 2015.

Officials say it’s because of a year-old rule that requires parents wanting non-medical immunization waivers to talk with local health departments.

Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail says it’s having an impact.

“It’s a very good step forward,” Vail said. “I mean we’ve had 8,000 more children immunized in, in the state immunized. You know, that’s a, that’s a significant number.”

Officials say the waiver rates here in Ingham County are down by 30 percent, which family physicians say is great for children and their families.

But recent legislation is trying to repeal the waiver policy. Representative Tom Hooker says the new requirement is a hassle.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing to change what we’ve been doing for 40 years, and then make it more difficult for a person to obtain a waiver,” Hooker said.

Fochtman says the proposal is a step backward.

“The progress that this education has made is incredible exciting, um, and beneficial,” Fochtman said. “It’s beneficial to kids like our son, and to communities.”

Fochtman’s son is healthy today, and she’s hoping the same for all kids in Michigan.

Hooker says he expects the legislation to be discussed soon, but health officials are hoping it does not pass.

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