Flint, MI–Flint Community Schools (FCS) officials say 92 percent of students had completed their state-required vaccinations or waivers as of last week, but those who have not risk being unable to return to class after winter break.
Michigan law mandates students be vaccinated against various illnesses in order to enter kindergarten and seventh grade or to enroll in a new district for students in grades one through 12.
The law also mandates that those who fail to meet the state’s requirements are not allowed to attend class.
For Flint Community Schools students who are not up-to-date with their state-required immunizations, officials said the district calls and sends letters to their guardians as reminders. Attendance agents may also pay home visits come early December.
Jennifer Holland, coordinator of health services at Flint Schools, said that students have until the day of returning from Christmas break, Jan. 3, 2023, to either present a waiver or an immunization report showing that they are current on state-required vaccinations.
After that date, students are unable to attend classes without providing that waiver or report, so school officials are advising students to do so as soon as possible to avoid any interruption in scholars’ studies after the break.
According to Holland, despite multiple phone calls and letters to inform scholars’ families about state requirements, roughly 60 students could not attend class after the Christmas break last year as they were not up to date on their immunizations.
“It continues to be very important for everyone to get immunized with the state-required vaccinations,” Holland said.
According to officials, Flint Schools met its state requirement to reach a completion rate of 90 percent by Nov. 1, 2022. As of that day, every school in the district reached a completion rate of 90 percent or above, aside from Holmes STEM Middle School Academy. Holmes recorded an 86 percent completion rate.
The state requires middle schoolers or those in grades above to receive additional vaccinations, school officials said, which makes it more challenging for Holmes to meet the 90 percent benchmark.
More broadly, Holland noted that one barrier to students’ vaccination tends to be the lack of having a primary care provider.
“A lot of our students don’t necessarily have a primary doctor that they go to,” Holland said. “And they only go to an ER or urgent care when something is wrong.”
Holland explained that primary care doctors play a central role in keeping students up to date with immunizations, and they provide routine check-ups and screenings, all of which are essential for scholars’ wellbeing.
“First and foremost, we want to encourage everybody to get into their own medical home and then that’s where they would be able to go to get their immunizations as well,” Holland said.
As an alternative to receiving vaccinations from a primary care physician, Holland said the Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) offers immunization appointments, and parents who do not want their child to receive any immunizations should obtain a waiver from GCHD.
On Flint Schools’ part, Holland said the health services department has offered three vaccination clinics since the start of the academic year.
Though no students took advantage of the first clinic, there was much greater turnout at the following two clinics, which helped bring schools in the district to the 90 percent completion rate, she explained.
Nonetheless, there are still scholars that need to meet their vaccination requirements, and Holland said the district is communicating with these students’ families. In the meantime, students and families can reach out to school nurses, GCHD or Flint Schools’ health services department for any questions.
By Feb. 1, 2023, the district is required by the state to reach a 95 percent completion rate.
Flint Schools health services department can be reached at 810-424-4087 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Genesee County Health Department can be reached at 810-237-4540 or 810-237-4569.