State health officials launch new vaccine program aimed at keepi - WNEM TV 5

State health officials launch new vaccine program aimed at keeping children safe

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Local health officials are taking a new approach to prevent serious childhood diseases.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services launched its "I Vaccinate" campaign on Monday.

The goal is to help parents make informed decisions about vaccinations because most have never seen the devastating effects of vaccine-preventable diseases.

"We have encountered people who have gotten vaccine-preventable infections and it's really nasty when it does happen because we know they could have avoided that illness if they had been vaccinated," said Robert Van Howe, pediatrician for Covenant HealthCare.

Howe said due to vaccination efforts diseases such as the whooping cough, measles and meningitis aren't commonly discussed these days.

However, more and more people are moving away from vaccinations. Pediatricians like Hytham Fadl, with Hurley Flint, said that is a problem.

"Unfortunately, we seem like we forgot about the bad diseases that used to happen to kids which is well protected by vaccination," Fadl said.

State health officials said immunization rates in Michigan are some of the lowest in the nation and have become a threat to public health.

Doctors across Mid-Michigan said if you decide not to vaccinate your child you are putting other children at risk.

"There are a lot of challenges and I think the biggest one is people just don't see these diseases anymore and the harmful effects they have," Howe said.

Fadl said a reason fewer parents are opting for vaccines is due to misinformation online. He believes it is going to take a concerted effort to sway the doubters.

"I think to correct this idea in the public mind will take some time," Fadl said.

He insists he always warns his patients about any potential side effects, but overall vaccinations are safe.

A news release said Michigan ranks 43 in the U.S. for immunization coverage among children 19 to 35 months. Only 54 percent of Michigan toddlers are up to date on vaccinations.

TV5 reached out to Michigan for Vaccine Choice, a statewide organization that supports parents' right to choose. They have not responded.

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