Eau Claire (WQOW) – A bill has been introduced at the capitol to make it harder for parents to opt their kids out of getting vaccines, and it could impact nearly 900 students here in Eau Claire.
Right now, Wisconsin allows waivers for medical, religious and personal reasons. This measure would eliminate the personal conviction waiver.
The bill is in response to the nation-wide measles outbreak.There are more than 700 confirmed cases in 22 states. That’s the most cases since the virus was declared eliminated in 2000.
Lieske Giese, the Eau Claire City-County Health Department director, said Eau Claire County schools use the personal conviction waiver at a higher rate than the rest of the state.
This year, 880 students fall under that opt-out provision and that number has grown over the last decade.
“The state vaccination rate for Wisconsin children in schools is around 91 percent,” Giese said. “In Eau Claire County, we are lower than that. So, we have a lower percentage of kids vaccinated fully at school entry and during school time, so it’s something that we pay attention to. We also have a higher personal conviction waiver percent as compared to the rest of the state and it’s growing. It’s something that we’ve seen increasing in the last 10 years and is higher than what the state sees.”
In the city of Eau Claire alone, Wisconsin Department of Health Services data shows that nearly 93 percent of students met the minimum immunization requirements.
Looking closer, the data shows 17 of the 27 schools in the district had a vaccination rate of 95 percent or higher.
‘We do see in our local data that we have pockets of schools that have lower vaccination rates,” Giese said. “So, specific schools may have significantly lower rates and higher personal conviction waivers. Whereas other schools that have students that are fully vaccinated.”
Giese said it’s the health department’s goal to have students vaccinated because she says it protects the entire community. She said Wisconsin’s personal conviction waiver is unusual when compared to other states.
Governor Tony Evers said he would back the bill introduced on Tuesday, although it is still in the very early stages of the legislative process.