Washtenaw County Public Health officials say time to think about immunizations

3 U of M RAHS Clinic staff members and a skeleton dressed in a halloween costume at Scarlett Middle School
Student Immunization Clinics will be held at the University of Michigan’s Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools Health Center at Scarlett Middle School.

It may be the middle of summer, but Washtenaw County Public Health officials are reminding parents that it’s time to start thinking about immunizations. Children entering licensed childcare programs, preschool, kindergarten or seventh grade, or who are new to a school district, must have up-to-date immunizations records or waivers before entering school in the fall.

“These immunization requirements exist to prevent the spread of disease, injury and death in the community,” says Jessie Kimbrough Marshall, Medical Director for Washtenaw County Public Health. “Immunizations protect everyone’s health, including the health of our babies, elders and those with compromised health who can’t be vaccinated.”

Parents can make an appointment with their child’s pediatrician to get required vaccinations. Washtenaw County Public Health offers free or low cost vaccines for children with Medicaid or no insurance. The University of Michigan Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools Health Center at Scarlett Middle School is also open all summer, and will be hosting student immunizations clinics in August.

Vaccination rates have been rising locally, but still only 82 percent of Washtenaw County children 19 to 35 months old had completed all recommended vaccines in 2016. That number was 77 percent for adolescents 13 to 17 years old.

Michigan parents or guardians opting out of the vaccinations required for their children must request a nonmedical waiver from their local public health department. Washtenaw County Public Health provides the required educational sessions, but recommend making an appointment soon, before the back-to-school rush. “The waiver education session is an opportunity for parents to get answers to their questions regarding vaccine use, safety, ingredients, and more,” says Christina Zilke, Immunizations Coordinator at Washtenaw County Public Health. “Our nurses take the time to make the visit personal and informative based on the family’s needs. Our hope is to give parents information and resources to make an informed decision about their child’s health.”

For children entering preschool or kindergarten, hearing and vision screenings are also required. Young children may not realize they have a hearing or vision problem. Make sure they can see, hear and are ready to learn before school starts.

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