KENT COUNTY, Mich. – Michigan State law has changed, making it tougher for families to enroll children in public schools who have not had their vaccinations.
As of Jan. 1, state law requires parents who do not vaccinate based on religious or philosophical beliefs to attend an educational session with their county’s health department. In Kent County, that means an individualized 15-minute session with a nurse to address parents’ concerns. Then, both parties can sign a uniform immunization waiver to ultimately keep their child in school.
Mary Wisinski, immunization program supervisor with the Kent County Health Department, told FOX 17 they are not aiming to harass parents who choose not to vaccinate, but they hope to change their minds.
“I’m old enough, I had measles, I had chickenpox,” said Wisinski, "but I’m also old enough to have gone to school with people who died from those diseases. It’s pretty scary. If you come in here, we believe in vaccines: vaccines are safe, they're effective, but I'm not here to force you to vaccinate your children."
Classes are by appointment only at one of four locations for the Kent County Health Department. Nurses have met with a handful of parents at this point, Wisinski said, but the response was positive.
"I've only spoken with a couple nurses here at this location, but they said actually the appointments went very well, and that the parents told them that they were a little bit nervous about coming here, but that they were very pleasantly surprised."
To hundreds of FOX 17 viewers on social media, immunizations are a heated issue. Some parents who vaccinate, like John Frantz, posted that failing to vaccinate your kids puts others at risk. Meanwhile, parents like Lauren Tori posted that her children medically cannot be vaccinated. Tori shared that her daughter went into a coma, and she believes it was caused by vaccines.
Many others said they think the government is overstepping parental boundaries by requiring this extra step to not vaccinate. “I think ultimately it should be the parents’ choice, what they feel is best for their children,” said Robin Coon, parent who vaccinates her two daughters.
State numbers show Kent County at the lower end of immunization waiver percentages: public schools are at a 3.6 percent and day cares are at 2 percent waiver rate.