WSW: Immunization Waivers and Risks

Dec 15, 2014

Vaccinating against polio in Mexico
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Kalamazoo Gazette  reporters and editors took a look at vaccination in Michigan and found some areas where the lack of immunization is causing a public health risk. 

Rosemary Parker and Julie Mack reported the stories that ran in the Gazette and were carried statewide by MLive. Mack told WMUK's Gordon Evans that figures from the Centers for Disease Control show that there has been an increase in parents choosing to not have their children vaccinated. But Mack says certain geographic areas were more likely to have large numbers of children not vaccinated

The West side of the state is better immunized than the east side of the state. Mack says areas with high rates of vaccination waivers are often more affluent and better educated on average. She says there is a misconception that vaccinations are mandatory. But Mack says the state is making changes that will require more effort to opt out of vaccinations for common diseases

Public health officials say the problem goes beyond those who are not vaccinated. Mack says the idea of "herd immunity" is that a high percentage of people getting vaccinated prevents disease from getting into a community. She says some people, such as infants and the elderly, can't get immunization shots. Mack says a high percentage of people getting vaccinated helps protect others. 

Mack talked to some parents who choose not to have their children vaccinated. She says they tend to be well-educated, middle class or affluent and skeptical of Western medicine. Mack says the parents believe there are long-term side-effects from vaccinations. But she says there is no scientific study that backs up that claim. 

Kalamazoo County has a high rate of vaccinations. Mack says the county has lead the way in providing information about the risks of not getting immunized, and financial help for low-income residents.