Michigan’s previous high vaccine-waiver rates among its schoolchildren have dropped by more than one-third.
The reduction is reportedly a result of a state rule change implemented in January 2015, MLive reports. The changes made it harder for parents to opt out of vaccination requirements.
November 2015’s statistics reveal only 2.8 percent of schoolchildren opted out, meaning there are now 8,000 fewer waivers since fall 2014.
"This improvement in our vaccination coverage rates means that more kids are protected from outbreaks and serious vaccine-preventable diseases," Dr. Eden Wells, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ chief medical executive, said in a press release Jan. 28.
For several years, Michigan children were more vulnerable to disease outbreaks than most other American children, reports MLive. This is because the state had some of the highest vaccine-waiver rates in the U.S.
Parents could simply sign a paper to waive vaccines on philosophical grounds. Health officials began to suspect many parents were simply opting out for the sake of convenience as opposed to genuine opposition, merely trying to avoid the hassles of getting immunizations.
By adding further steps, the state managed to decrease this. While parents are still allowed to sign a paper opting their children out of vaccines, they must obtain the paperwork at their country’s health department where they receive an education session.
Afterwards, they sign a form clearly indicating they understand the risks they are exposing their children and others to.
"By ensuring that parents have the opportunity to address and discuss concerns with their local health department, we're providing parents with knowledge they can use when making a decision about vaccinating their child," Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Director Nick Lyon said.
Still, Wells warns Michigan is not yet in the clear.
"Unfortunately, we have not eradicated some very serious diseases that affect children and adults alike. We continue to see outbreaks of pertussis, (whooping cough) and chickenpox in areas of Michigan, as well as nationwide,” Wells explained.