Street Talk: Taking a shot at change


Immunization waiver rates plummeted in 2015, thanks to a change to the law that took effect in January of last year.

The Kent County Health Department held a news conference recently to share the impact of the reformed law, which focused on providing parents with information and education about the importance of immunizations.

The Health Department reported waiver rates fell by more than 39 percent statewide in 2015, according to data provided by the Michigan Department of Human Services.

In West Michigan, waiver rates dropped 12 percent in Kalamazoo County, 21 percent in Allegan and 36 percent in Kent County.

In 2014, 4.6 percent of Michigan children received an immunization waiver, but by November 2015, the rate had fallen to 2.8 percent, according to the county. In all, 2015 saw nearly 8,000 fewer childhood immunization waiver requests across the state.

Why the change?

The updated law, which took effect in January 2015, required any parent who did not wish to vaccinate their child to attend a counseling session with a medically trained public health nurse prior to obtaining the waiver, according to the Health Department.

The law did not include those seeking a waiver based on medical contradictions.

If, after the consultation, the parent still wished to not vaccinate their child, they were provided with the state-mandated waiver.

Health Department officials said now that the waiver rates have been tabulated, the data shows the “success of the program” and helps guide health professionals to areas that still need to be improved.

There is some concern that bills recently introduced in the legislature, House Bills 5126 and 5127, could undo the progress that’s been made. The bills seek to repeal the waiver requirements implemented last year.

“Michigan’s recent immunization waiver reforms have made a real difference for thousands of kids, but House Bills 5126 and 5127 threaten that progress,” said Marcus Cheatham, president of the Michigan Association of Public Health.

“Childhood immunizations protect our kids from dangerous, infectious diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough. Parents want the best for their kids, so equipping them with the support they need couldn’t be more important.”

Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, who supports the bills, said, “We are simply seeking to return to the DHHS policy that has existed for the last 40 years. Waiver rates are not the issue being addressed by the legislation in HB 5126 and 5127 — the discrepancy between department and state procedure is the key concern. If you want to change the law, the process is through the legislature and the governor.”

Hooker claims the current DHHS rule conflicts with statutory procedures already in place.

“DHHS does not have the legal authority to require this, especially with clear procedure set by statute,” he said.

Designs on tech

Just showing up for a technology and diversity event will get you free Cajun snacks and beer — and maybe a whole lot more.

AIGA West Michigan, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Local First and Ladies That UX are getting together to put on the latest Design Briefs event, which will include a panel discussion.

For those unfamiliar, Design Briefs is a partnership between GRAM and design organization AIGA West Michigan that seeks to connect Grand Rapids’ creative community with local entrepreneurs, creating a positive social impact for everyone.

The theme is Diversity in Technology, and is scheduled for 5:30-8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16, at GRAM, 101 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids.

The evening will attempt to define what happens when people of many backgrounds work together to create and share great work and how radical collaboration and entrepreneurialism can come together to build new business models out of locally focused creativity.

The event will have presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions.

Panelists include UX coach Lane Halley; Krischa Winright, CIO at Priority Health Managed Benefits; Keli Christopher, founder of Mind Boggle; and Daniel Williams, executive director of West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology.

Page turner

Grand Rapids has an official book — sort of.

“A City Within a City: The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan” has been selected as the official “Mayor’s Book of the Year” for 2016. The announcement not only coincided with Black History Month, but also with MayorRosalynn Bliss’ emphasis on confronting racial disparities in Grand Rapids during her State of the City address last week.

“As we work to better understand the racial disparities that exist in our city, it is important that we look back and learn from the past,” said Bliss. “To kick off what I am calling the ‘Mayor’s Book of the Year,’ I can think of no better book.”

Published in 2012, “A City Within a City” focuses on issues related to school integration and bureaucratic reforms in Grand Rapids during the civil rights area.

Historian and author Todd Robinson also explores the role of black youth activism and how the post-war political reform transformed the city’s racial geography, creating a racialized city within a city, according to the book summary.

“This book weaves a story of significant events along with the many people who played a key role in the black freedom struggle that occurred in our city,” said Bliss during her speech. “It provides a historical framework to help us learn from our past and appreciate the context of our current state.”

Bliss plans to host a community forum later this summer to engage participants in a broader dialogue. Grand Rapids Public Schools will use excerpts from the book during Black History Month.

Raise a toast

Grand Rapids and West Michigan did exceptionally well in the annual Best Of awards.

Based on the feedback from the website’s users — and we can safely assume they all are beer lovers — area brewers have a lot to celebrate.

Larry Bell can raise a toast to his Kalamazoo brewery for being named No. 9 in the world, top brewer in Michigan and having three beers on the top 100 beers of the world list.

Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids saw their brewery land in the top 100 brewers in the world, as well as three beers in the top 100 of the world, including CBS, which took top honors in Michigan.

Odd Side Ales out of Grand Haven made the top 100 brewers of the world list, as well.

HopCat founder Mark Sellers can celebrate yet another year as the top brewpub in Michigan and among the top five in the country.

Sicilano’s Specialty Market’s Steve Siciliano and crew were again named the best beer grocer in Michigan and among the top five in the nation.

Business Journal Newsmaker nominee Michael Brower and his partners, Chad Doane and Joel Kamp, are likely celebrating on the lakeshore as Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. took home the best new brewer in Michigan honor.

Beer has a big head in West Michigan, and sometimes deservedly so, as the cream of the crop continues to play with the best of the world.

Michigan still has a ways to go before catching up with California, however, where 22 breweries were named in the top 100 of the world.

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