Michigan is tied at 11 for the rate of kindergartners in the country who have waivers from required vaccines, according to a report released Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The nationwide report puts into context earlier numbers that show the percentage of all Michigan school children with vaccine waivers has increased for the third straight year. The rate remains below the 2014-15 school year, the last year before an educational requirement was put into place.
Statewide, 3.8% of all school-age children had a vaccine waiver last year — up from 3.1% in the 2015-2016 school year. Parents or guardians of children can ask for waivers from required vaccines for philosophical, religious or medical reasons.
Narrowing to just kindergarten students, Michigan was tied with Montana at 4.5%. Nationwide, about 2.5% of kindergarten students had exemptions, according to the CDC report. Idaho and Oregon had the highest kindergarten exemption rates at 7.7%.
Search the database below to see vaccination and waiver rates for schools with at least five kindergarten students last year.
“Even though we have seen a trickle-up … we do feel the waiver education has been helpful in reducing our waiver rate and getting more kids vaccinated,” said Bob Swanson, director of the Immunization Division at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. During the 2013-14 school year Michigan had the fourth-highest waiver rate in the U.S. for kindergarten students at 5.9%.
So far this year as of October 1, a total of 1,249 measles cases were reported in the U.S. — the most since 1992. About nine out of 10 people who contracted the disease were unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status and a majority were children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The median measles patient was 6 years old, meaning half of the patients were younger and half older.
In Michigan, there were 46 confirmed measles cases this year, of which 42 were related to an outbreak in Oakland County. State health officials say Michigan’s measles outbreak was somewhat unique since a majority of the cases were adults and it is too early to tell how the outbreak will affect vaccination rates for children in the community.
In Oakland, 6.4 percent of kindergartners had a waiver last year. That’s 895 students where kindergarten enrollment was at least five.
The CDC announced earlier this month that the U.S. has kept its measles elimination status of nearly two decades, which means the chain of transmitting the disease during any outbreak is shorter than a year.
“When measles is imported into a highly vaccinated community, outbreaks either do not happen or are usually small. However, if measles is introduced into an under-vaccinated community, it can spread quickly and it can be difficult to control,” according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services news release.
More: Vaccine debate ignites as measles outbreak threatens Michigan
More: How Oakland Co.’s Orthodox Jewish enclave became the epicenter for Michigan measles outbreak
Another vaccine-preventable disease, Whooping cough or pertussis, is on the rise in the U.S. and Michigan, according to the state health department.
In October, eight cases of whooping cough were reported in Ann Arbor Public Schools, bringing the total cases to 51 in Washtenaw County this year, according to Susan Ringler, communications manager at the Washtenaw County Health Department.
The cases were associated with six different schools in the district ranging from elementary to high school buildings, said Andrew Cluley, spokesman for Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Whooping cough can start off with symptoms similar to the common cold and after 1-2 weeks severe coughing begins and can last for months. Adolescents and adults may experience a milder form of the illness, but more than half of infants under 12 months who contract the disease require hospitalization, according to the state.
Nearly two out of three Michigan schools with at least five enrolled kindergarten students last year had complete vaccination rates below 95% — a total of 1,327 schools. 95 percent is an accepted standard by which enough people are vaccinated to improve protection for even those who are not.
The 4.5% of Michigan kindergartners with waivers represents 5,386 public and private school students. “It means that we have a lot of vulnerable kids out there to vaccine-preventable diseases,” Swanson said.
“It is concerning that we have that many kids that are not fully vaccinated because it does create a pocket of susceptible kids,” Swanson said. “They share things and then if somebody in the school gets sick then the susceptibles in the school get sick and then they take it home and that’s when it gets into the community.”
Leelanau County had the highest rate of kindergartners with vaccine waivers last year — roughly 13%, followed by Lapeer and Houghton counties at 11%. No kindergarten vaccine waivers were issued for Upper Peninsula counties Luce and Gogebic, along with Montmorency in the Lower Peninsula last year.
Statewide the waiver rate for kindergarten students at private schools is double the rate of traditional public schools: 8.5% compared to 4.2%, respectively.
Kindergarten students are required to have the following vaccines in order to attend school:
- Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis (DTaP)
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
- Hepatitis B
- Varicella (chickenpox)
Among Michigan school-age children a majority of students with waivers cite philosophical reasons, 70%, followed by religious reasons — 25%. Medical reasons, which do not have an education requirement, were cited in 5% of the waivers last school year.
This story has been corrected to show Ann Arbor Public Schools has had whooping cough cases associated with six schools in the district, not four.
Contact Kristi Tanner: 313-222-8877 or [email protected]