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In ‘Stealth Move,’ Mich. Refines Vaccine Waivers, Improves Rate Among Kids

Just three years ago, Michigan had the fourth-highest rate of unvaccinated kindergartners in the nation. But when a charter school in northwestern Traverse City reported nearly two dozen cases of whooping cough and several cases of measles that November, state officials were jolted to action.

Without much fanfare — or time for opponents to respond — they abandoned the state’s relatively loose rules for getting an exemption and issued a regulation requiring families to consult personally with local public health departments before obtaining an immunization waiver.

The new rule sidestepped potential ideological firefights in the state Legislature, which have plagued lawmakers in other states trying to crack down on vaccination waivers. The regulation had a dramatic effect. In the first year, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported that the number of statewide waivers issued had plunged 35 percent. Today, Michigan is in the middle of the pack among vaccination rates.


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