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Too few Michigan children are immunized against common diseases, a situation that is leading to increases in whooping cough and other maladies, the leader of the Michigan State Medical Society said Thursday.

About 5.9 percent of Michigan kindergarteners don’t get vaccinated because their parents seek immunization exemptions for medical, religious or philosophical reasons, the fourth-highest rate in the nation for the 2012-13 school year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. It represents a rise from the state’s 5.5 percent rate the year before.

The number of youths who aren’t immunized consequently grows. Less than 72 percent of young Michigan children and 63 percent of adolescents are fully immunized, said Kenneth Elmassian, president of the medical society.

William Ridella, director of the Macomb County Department of Public Health, said he has seen an increase in applications to waive immunizations. The county does not give blanket approvals and checks into the requests, he said.

The state’s lower immunization rate has led to recent outbreaks of pertussis — whooping cough, Elmassian said. Rises in other diseases once considered eradicated also have been occurring in Midwestern states, he said.

“We do want to encourage people to get immunizations now, especially children just starting school,” Ridella said, adding they help prevent the contraction and spread of diseases.needle

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