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Michigan has seen a 39 percent drop in the number of waivers submitted for non-medical vaccinations, state health officials said on Thursday.

Nearly five months into the current 2015-16 school year, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting nearly 8,000 fewer vaccination waivers for children entering Michigan’s K-12 schools.

The kindergarten waiver rate has dropped from 5.18 percent to 3.32 percent; the 7th grade rate has dropped from 4.55 percent to 2.78 percent; and the rate for new students to a school district has dropped from 4.28 percent to 2.47 percent.

In 2014, Michigan had the sixth highest immunization waiver rate in the country with more than 5 percent of kindergarten children not vaccinated with all required vaccines.

All Michigan kindergarteners, seventh grade students and students moving from one school district to another are required to be up to date on certain immunizations or have a signed immunization waiver, state officials said.

Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive for the MDHHS, said the improvement in state vaccination coverage rates means that more kids are protected from outbreaks and serious vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Unfortunately, we have not eradicated some very serious diseases that affect children and adults alike. We continue to see outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) and chickenpox in areas of Michigan as well as nationwide,” Wells said.

A new rule went into effect in Michigan in January that requires parents seeking a non-medical waiver for their child’s vaccinations to meet with local health department staff before obtaining the waiver. Previously, the waiver could be obtained from the school and signed by the parent at the time of school enrollment.

“By ensuring that parents have the opportunity to address and discuss concerns with their local health department, we’re providing parents with knowledge they can use when making a decision about vaccinating their child,” said Nick Lyon, director MDHHS.

MDHHS will continue to monitor waiver rates and immunization coverage levels.

For more information about Michigan’s vaccine or waiver rates, visit www.michigan.gov/immunize.

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