Looking at vaccination rates in Wisconsin as health officials deal with outbreak of measles

NOW: Looking at vaccination rates in Wisconsin as health officials deal with outbreak of measles


Health officials are dealing with an outbreak of measles.

More than 100 cases have already been reported in 2019 and 58 of those cases are linked to an outbreak that began last month in Washington State.

The CDC linked the outbreak to a strain from eastern Europe after travelers returned with the illness.

Experts at the Central Racine County Health Department say vaccines are useful and necessary, yet there are schools in the county with immunization rates low enough to be considered risky.

One of the lowest rates in the state belongs to a school in Walworth County.

"The science community almost entirely supports vaccinations," said Ethan Lindenberger who was recently vaccinated.

Lindenberger recently decided to reverse a decision his mother made for him and at the age of 18, he got himself vaccinated.

"When I looked into the evidence I thought my mom made a poor decision in choosing not to vaccinate me or my siblings," said Lindenberger.

Many parents decide not to vaccinate their children for philosophical or religious reasons. 

There was a study that linked vaccines to autism but since then, health experts in Wisconsin say millions of dollars have been spent researching that claim and the study was proven wrong.

"Vaccines, from a public health perspective, are safe, effective and they've been studied over and over again and have not shown any links to any adverse events."

A way for vaccines to work effectively is "herd immunization" --- meaning if enough of a population is immune, those who aren't will be more protected.

Experts say the vaccination rate usually needs to be north of 80% for that. According to Wisconsin health data, 11% of students meet minimum immunity requirements at Mount Zion Christian School in Lake Geneva.

It's 30 percent at Mukwonago Baptist Academy and 31% at Falls Baptist Academy in Menomenee Falls.

"We do like to see immunization rates as high as possible. We also respect that ultimately parents make choices for their children."

Wisconsin is one of 17 states that allows parents to opt out of vaccinations because of personal beliefs. 

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