Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan's top doctor, expressed concern about the pandemic putting Michiganders off their immunization schedules. Photo courtesy the Office of the Governor.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan's top doctor, expressed concern about the pandemic putting Michiganders off their immunization schedules. Photo courtesy the Office of the Governor.

A strained health care system can’t handle two different outbreaks, state officials say. Here’s how to get your family back on track with immunizations.

GOODELLS, MI — Katlyn Buckley is a mother from Michigan’s Thumb region raising a baby during a global health crisis. But it isn’t just the coronavirus that she worries about — it’s other diseases as well. 

“My daughter’s doctor rescheduled her nine month appointment where she would have had a checkup and vaccinations done,” Buckley told The ‘Gander. “They rescheduled and did it when she was 10 months, after the Stay-at-Home order was lifted. Prior to that, they mainly only did telehealth visits.”

Buckley’s daughter is back on track with her vaccination schedule now, but that isn’t the case for many newborn Michiganders. 

Michigan Falls Behind on Vaccinations

In large part because of the kind of situation Buckley had, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reports vaccinations were down almost 50% overall compared to the last two years. The older someone was, the less likely they were to still be on track with vaccinations, as well: 22% of infants were behind compared to 67% of adults.

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“It is concerning that so many children are behind on their vaccinations and susceptible to preventable diseases,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “Vaccines are essential. It is important for caregivers to contact their health care provider to get children caught up on needed vaccines.”

Missing vaccinations is one of a number of ways the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to other health issues. The New York Times attributed a rise in non-coronavirus deaths in part to patients with chronic conditions not seeking medical attention, as hospitals have seen a drop in heart attack and stroke cases during the pandemic. The Times also mentioned the strain the pandemic has placed upon the health care system as a source of delays in treatment for other conditions. 

And the Detroit News reports that Michigan is not prepared to handle two outbreaks at once. If the lack of vaccinations causes an outbreak of a second deadly infection, the numbers could become more grim.

“Vaccines are very important to me,” said Buckley, “especially when children are so young. As a parent, you want to always make sure your kids are healthy and meeting their right developmental milestones.”

And Bridge reports that if children aren’t back on schedule with vaccinations, there is a chance they won’t be able to return for in-person instruction if schools reopen in the fall. Schools are aware there is significant risk students will return without the normal vaccinations and are concerned, but they are not planning to waive the requirements that students either be vaccinated or parents complete a vaccine education course at their local health department. 

Getting Caught Up

As a result, Beaumont Hospital is planning two curbside vaccination events. The hospital will provide immunizations for Michiganders 10-21 years of age at one of two teen health centers in the Detroit area. 

  • 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on July 30 at 1460 W. Coolidge Highway in River Rouge. Call (313) 843-1639 to register an appointment for that time.
  • 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on August 5 at 26650 Eureka Rd. Suite B in Taylor. Call (734) 942-2273 to register an appointment for that time.

Beaumont is intending the event to help get kids back on track with vaccination schedules before schools reopen in September. 

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Khaldun also stressed the importance of every Michigander getting a flu shot this year.

“The influenza vaccine will help keep Michiganders out of the hospital for flu-related illnesses, saving lives and protecting our hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. 

MDHHS participates in a public-private partnership called the I Vaccinate campaign. I Vaccinate provides the facts parents need to make informed decisions about vaccinations through their website.