Routine vaccine rates down, tying into special clinic advancer

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Doctors, pediatricians and county health departments continue to push parents to get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19.

But Dr. Megan Sikkema, a pediatric hospitalist at Bronson Children’s Hospital, is also urging them to be protected against other dangerous diseases too.

“The vaccines really have prevented a lot of very serious illnesses that are life-threatening for kids and any vulnerable adults also,” Sikkema said.

With adolescents heading back to school, Sikkema is among those concerned for how diseases like chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, DTaP, MMR and polio can go around without any protection.

“Children that are in close contact can spread disease very quickly. If they’re not vaccinated against a specific illness, they can certainly spread that as well, in addition to COVID.”

Sikkema explained vaccines for these illnesses give our bodies, especially kids, an instruction manual for the immune system.

“It lets your body prepare,” Sikkema said. “It gives them antibodies, which are the most important thing, that fight off infection. It gives our bodies a head start. When we encounter these viruses and these bacteria in our day-to-day lives, our body knows exactly what to do to take care of it, so that we cannot become ill or end up very sick.”

For teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 in Kalamazoo County, data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry currently shows lower vaccination rates this year compared to 2020 and 2019. Though they are above state average, the downward trend is still troubling.

“When I see those rates decrease, I get really nervous that we’re going to start to see a rise in some of these illnesses that we pretty (much) have been able to do away with,” Sikkema said.

For those reasons, the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department is having a back-to-school special routine vaccine clinic for area students on Thursday. This gives the opportunities for families to be up to date on their shots and help prevent students from staying home sick this year.

“That allows them to be protected from the other things,” Sikkema explained. “If they do come into contact with COVID, their bodies aren’t busy fighting something else or sick from something else.”

Sikkema encourages any parents with questions, comments or concerns to reach out to her, their pediatrician or their family doctor.

The clinic will be at the department’s offices on Alcott Street in Kalamazoo from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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