Michigan parents who wish to refuse immunization for their children can still do so, but the process got tougher this year. In the past, a waiver could be issued by a school secretary or a day care provider. But that led to a growing number of children who were not being vaccinated. Last year’s outbreak of whooping cough among children in Traverse City led to school closings. This year is different.
Any parent or guardian who wishes to prevent their child from receiving required shots before entering school must schedule a waiver request appointment with their local county health department. Last year, the Kent County Health Department received nearly 1400 waiver notices from schools and day care centers. This year by comparison, says Immunization Program Supervisor Mary Wisinski, only 800 waiver appointments were scheduled. But despite fewer numbers, the new law made a “big impact” on her office.
The waiver appointment lasts about 15 minutes to allow nurses to talk to parents or guardians about vaccines and the diseases they are intended to prevent. “And some of those people were very unhappy to be coming to the Kent County Health Department,” says Wisinksi. “Our 20 nurses really stepped up to the plate to handle the increased numbers.”
At the end of the session the parent or guardian must sign a form that states they understand the risk their child and others could face without vaccination. Wisinski says some parents ripped up the form rather than sign it. “The Center for Disease Control gave us training on how to conduct an immunization waiver appointment. It was a huge adjustment, but we think we changed some parents’ minds.” She noted that many parents are simply unaware of the science behind vaccinations. “We give them a handout on where to find information so they can access real research,” says Wisinksi.
Parents who wish to avoid multiple doses of vaccine administered to the child all at once may elect to stretch out the vaccination process. “It may be a bit more painful for the child, but it makes the parent feel better,” says Wisinki.
After the waiver appointment concludes, parents take a waiver certificate back to their local school or day care center to get their child admitted. The final total of immunization waivers won’t be known until after official numbers are reported. Totals from child care centers is due as of October 1, but public schools do not report the numbers of waivers they issued until November 1. Wisinski estimates that over all, the numbers of people requesting waivers amounts to somewhere between 2% to 4% statewide.
To find out how many waivers are granted by Michigan school districts, check out the link below: