CBS 58 Investigates: Missing Vaccinations
MILWAUKEE (CBS-58) – A CBS 58 investigation of Wisconsin immunization data shows 710 schools in southeastern Wisconsin have student populations with fewer than 95 percent of their students fully vaccinated. While the data doesn’t identify which vaccines a student is missing or behind schedule on, health officials said 95 percent is the number of people needed to be vaccinated against measles to offer herd immunity to those who are not vaccinated.
16th Street Community Health Center Pediatrician Nicole Fortuna said students attending schools with lower immunization rates are at a higher risk of catching a vaccine preventable disease.
“When the immunization rate is low, yes, absolutely,” said Fortuna.
Of the 700 schools identified by CBS 58, 334 schools had large percentages of students whose parents chose not to vaccinate for personal reasons. 164 schools had large percentages of students behind schedule on their vaccines.
Fortuna said, “It is pretty shocking, because most of the time, my patients want their vaccines. The kids, the parents don’t want their kids to get sick.”
CBS 58 Investigates found 20 percent of students at West Milwaukee Intermediate School were late on their shots. 17 percent of students were behind at Thoreau Elementary in Milwaukee, and 10 percent of students were behind at Cudahy Middle School.
Fortuna said parents are not always skeptical of vaccines. She said some of her patients struggle to keep their children up to date because they can’t take off work to get to a clinic. She said some parents may choose to skip some shots too.
Fortuna said, “They’re, you know, concerned about the pain of giving a child maybe six vaccines at once.”
CBS 58 Investigates found Milwaukee Public Schools and its charters had the most schools with students who had fallen behind in the current data.
The district holds special vaccine clinics to get kids caught up on their shots, because if kids are still behind schedule, they have to be excluded from school.
Parent Larry Brooks said,” The kids have to come get the shots or they won’t be able to come back to school as far as that situation. So I just immediately came and got it done.”
His two kids had paperwork issues with the district, he was able to get their records in order, and they were let back in school. Brooks said he didn’t mind the hurdles.
“The kids need them, you know, you have to get your shots for chicken pox and other things, measles,” said Brooks.
Children who don’t meet the state’s requirements can be kicked out of school for up to ten days. But the law provides outs. Parents can fill out waivers from meeting the state’s vaccine requirements for medical, religious, or personal reasons.
Wisconsin Immunization Program director Stephanie Schauer said parents should know the immunization rates at their child’s schools. She said Wisconsin offers free vaccines to families who can’t afford to pay for vaccines. And she cautions children who are behind on their shots leave themselves and others at risk.
“Our communities become vulnerable, and we open up the possibility of children getting sick,” said Schauer.
State law allows judges to fine parents $25 per day for not meeting the state’s vaccine requirements. But it is viewed as being relatively toothless, because districts argue federal privacy law prevents them from releasing that information to prosecutors.
Look up your child’s school vaccine data here: