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'Influx' of vaccine-waiver applicants led to 8-day wait | News

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'Influx' of vaccine-waiver applicants led to 8-day wait

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- New state requirements for vaccination waivers led to an eight-day waiting period at the Ottawa County Health Department at the start of school this year.

WZZM 13 is looking into what caused the delays and what's being done about it.

Even a crash-course on vaccinations takes a significant amount of time, when enough parents try to schedule an appointment all at once. That led to an eight-day waiting period for an appointment at the Ottawa County Department of Public Health around the start of this school year.

"We had an influx of appointments the week before school and just a couple days after; some of the appointments were taking up to eight days," says Kristina Wieghmink, communications specialist for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

A new state mandate requires parents to have an educational meeting with a health department representative before getting a vaccination waiver for their child.

WZZM 13 asked the health department if students have been forced to miss school.

"That's really up to each school to enforce that state mandate," says Wieghmink.

At the Zeeland Public School District, the new waiver requirements did not affect a lot of students. School leaders say only two students were impacted, but one of them missed a week of school.

"I can understand how that would be upsetting for a parent," says Wieghmink.

WZZM 13 also contacted the Holland and West Ottawa school districts, but they did not return calls.

Ottawa County is one of a few counties in Michigan that already had vaccination waiver requirements like the state has now. However, health officials say in past years they'd be more flexible with the deadline.

WZZM 13 asked health officials if they will need more staffing next year, knowing what happened this year.

"Well, it's always a possibility," says Wieghmink. Health officials even talked about charging parents a fee to recoup some of the overtime costs. "We discussed that, and we have not charged a fee before nor will we do that in the future."

Now, they're asking parents to take care of the vaccination waivers for next school year far in advance.

WZZM 13 also checked with other local health departments about appointment delays. Kent County's health department says it experienced a ten-day waiting period at one point around the start of school. Muskegon County had up to a five-day wait for an appointment. All the health departments told WZZM 13 that the peaks of the delays are now over.