Bridge Reporter Mike Wilkinson says when state health officials enacted new rules on immunizations to attend school “They didn’t want it to be easier to get a waiver than it was to get a shot.”
Wilkinson, who is Bridge’s Computer-Assisted Reporting Specialist joined Gordon Evans to discuss reporting on the change in the waiver rate and proposed legislation that would rescind those rules.
After a 2014 whooping cough outbreak in northern Michigan, state health officials decided to make it more difficult to get a waiver. Under those rules, if a parent wants to opt-out of having their child vaccinated, they have to meet with a health department official in the county where they live. Wilkinson says it’s a 15 to 30 minute conversation that has to be done face to face. During that meeting, health officials explain why vaccinations are recommended, but also discuss the risks.
After the new rules were implemented the waiver rate plummeted. Wilkinson says it fell by a third statewide with the biggest drop in public schools. Although some areas of the state saw an increase. Wilkinson says the state considers the change a success.
State Senator Patrick Colbeck and State Representative Tom Barrett have introduced legislation that would make it easier again to obtain a waiver. Wilkinson says he requested interviews with both lawmakers, but did not get a response. Statements made by both show they believe that it’s government over reach to require parents to talk to a health care professional to get a waiver.
Wilkinson says it’s worth noting that Colbeck is from Canton and the Plymouth-Canton schools had one of the highest waiver rates. The waiver rate came down in the district when the new rules went into effect.
Thanks to WDET where Wilkinson joined us.