Health officials still tackling low vaccination numbers

Parents encouraged to get kids shots before returning to school

OSCEOLA COUNTY — As vaccination numbers steadily increase, some Michigan counties have seen higher rates of vaccine hesitancy and opposition leading to lower vaccination records. With the new school year approaching, health officials are putting in more effort to encourage residents to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

As of July 27, according to the Michigan COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, Osceola County's current vaccination rate is 39.9% with 8,802 fully vaccinated individuals. Osceola currently has seven enrolled vaccination sites.

Kevin Hughes, a health officer with District Health Department No. 10, said the low vaccination rates could pose a risk of a rise in new COVID-19 cases.

“Yes, there is concern about low rates,” Hughes said. “Communities with lower vaccination rates have a greater chance of seeing increasing cases of the virus. With the variants in play, the potential is there for an increase in the number of individuals needing medical care and/or hospitalization and possibly increased deaths.”

In 2020 alone, the coronavirus was responsible for about 380,000 deaths and roughly 5.5 million years of lost life in the United States, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That number of life years lost is more than the number lost in a typical calendar year to all accidents combined — including traffic accidents, drownings, firearm accidents, drug overdoses, and other poisonings — and more than triple the number of life-years lost in a normal calendar year due to liver disease or diabetes.


According to the Michigan Data Dashboard, among young adults in Mecosta County, the highest case rate is 20- to 29-year-olds with a total of 772 confirmed cases, with the second-highest being among 10- to 19-year-olds with 423 confirmed cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the increased prevalence of the COVID-19 infection among younger adults likely contributes to community transmission, including to persons at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults.

Bethanie Dean, the immunizations coordinator for DHD No. 10, said the low vaccination rates could potentially exacerbate the spread of the virus.

“Low vaccination rates could cause another surge of COVID-19 cases and a potential spread in the schools,” Dean said. “There is a concern of the COVID-19 variants infecting unvaccinated people and causing a spread in our community. We are continuing to educate our communities on COVID-19, the variants, and the importance of being vaccinated to reduce the spread.”

The CDC has reported that over 338 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the United States from Dec. 14, 2020, through July 19, 2021. To date, the systems in place to monitor the safety of these vaccines have found only two serious types of health problems after vaccination, both of which are rare. These are anaphylaxis and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which may occur after vaccination with J&J Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

DHD No. 10 works with various community organizations, businesses, and school districts to promote vaccination among community members.

Dean said the department plans to continue to educate communities on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccines through social media, presence in the community, and teaming up with community partners.

“We are offering pop-up clinics throughout the community with a variety of hours. We also accept walk-ins during office hours when a nurse is available,” Dean said. “We continue to promote the COVID-19 vaccines on our social media pages and work with community partners to encourage individuals to get vaccinated.”


The CDC recommends that everyone 12 years and older should get a COVID-19 vaccination to help protect against COVID-19. The organization also reported that an eligible child may get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same doctor’s visit or without waiting 14 days between vaccines.

The CDC recommends that in addition to the seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine and Td or Tdap vaccine (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), individuals should also get an HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of human papillomaviruses (HPV) that cause most cervical, anal, and other cancers. They also recommend HPV vaccination for all preteens at age 11 or 12 years, and HPV vaccination for everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already.

Kevin Hughes said the department is aiming to increase the number of vaccinations in young adults before the school year begins.

“Right now, among other things, we are also focusing efforts on getting school-age kids up to date on their childhood immunizations before heading back to school,” Hughes said. “The pandemic potentially caused some students to get behind on their vaccines, so we want to be sure to make it as easy as possible to get everyone caught up.”

Thus far, Reed City Area Schools, Big Rapids Public Schools, Morley Stanwood School District, and Chippewa Hills Schools administrations have all discussed plans to not require vaccination records for the upcoming year, as well as making masks optional.

Health officials at DHD No. 10 are encouraging parents and families to prioritize vaccinations and immunizations prior to the school year starting, and maintaining health practices like hand washing and sanitizing.

For more information on DHD No. 10’s initiatives, where to find vaccination sites in your area, and more information on vaccines and COVID-19 visit the department's website, or see the CDC’s website at