October 02, 2013 - Last year, nearly one in five students in the Brandon School District received a waiver for vaccinations.
Vaccinations are meant to protect the population as a whole from a host of diseases.
The threat of many diseases has been reduced and polio has nearly been eradicated from the planet through worldwide efforts to immunize. However, in more recent years, what was once seen as a great medical advance in protecting public health is now viewed by some as a detriment to health and even as the cause of disorders.
"We do know that there are beliefs out there that vaccines are not necessary or even harmful," said Shane Bies, administrator of public health nursing services for the Oakland County Health Division. "We are always concerned that we educate so the percentage of people believing that doesn't increase."
The district's waiver rate of 19 percent included students new to the district and those in sixth grade and in Kindergarten during the 2012-2013 school year, said Bies. In Brandon, the district's immunization policy states, "The Board of Education believes that immunization is one of the most cost-effective measures to protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Accordingly, the Board requires that all students be properly immunized at the time of registration or not later than the first day of school pursuant to the provisions of the State Health Department regulations."
However, the policy allows three circumstances in which a required vaccine may be waived or delayed, including a valid medical reason; a religious or philosophical belief against receiving a vaccination; or a child has received at least one dose of each immunizing agent and the next dose is not yet due.
Bies emphasized waiver rates are a complex issue and vary by community for many reasons, including documentation errors. Some parents may also have scheduled vaccination appointments, but obtained waivers in order to have their children attend school until they can get them to the doctor.
Statewide, Bies said the overall rate for children fully vaccinated by age 36 months is about 74 percent, and in Oakland County, 73 percent are fully vaccinated by that age.
"Overall, vaccination rates are pretty good, but areas of concern are that there are some communities that are not getting vaccinated as frequently as the rest of the population," he said. "There are pockets of susceptible people to various diseases, and when you have all those unvaccinated people near each other, if disease was introduced, it will cause more illness and disease."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "pockets" of unvaccinated people resulted in the largest outbreak of measles in the U.S. since 1996 this year. From January to Aug. 24, 159 cases of measles, a highly contagious, viral illness, were reported.
"Measles elimination has been maintained in the United States since it was declared in 2000. However, an estimated 20 million cases of measles occur each year worldwide, and cases continue to be imported into the United States. The increase in measles cases in the United States in 2013 serves as a reminder that imported measles cases can result in large outbreaks, particularly if introduced into areas with pockets of unvaccinated persons."
A pocket of unvaccinated persons doesn't have to be the church community in Texas which had an outbreak after one of its members traveled to Indonesia, contracted the disease and spread it to others.
In Ortonville, Liz Waters has four daughters who are unvaccinated. She made this choice after her daughter Nora's leg vein ruptured while receiving a vaccination. Waters took her daughter to the emergency room and followed that up with research on vaccinations.
"I was already on a delayed vaccination schedule because I didn't like the statistics on autism, childhood illnesses and the side effects of the vaccine," said Waters, who also noted Nora's immunizations were accompanied by high fevers and extreme irritability. "The more research I did, the more I didn't want to do any of them. I think there is a link between autism and vaccines."
Autism rates increased from one in every 150 children in 2000 to one in every 88 in 2008, according to a CDC study. However, Bies an other public health officials stress that a study connecting autism and vaccines has been proven false.
"That link has been thoroughly discredited by multiple research institutions
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville