Assembly Bill 248 is proactive, bipartisan legislation that reverses the increasing public health threat posed by rising vaccination opt-out rates. The bill eliminates the personal conviction opt-out option for vaccinations in Wisconsin. Here is what you need to know:
This bill addresses a state, national, and global crisis:
- In 2017, over 110,000 people died worldwide from measles. The recent measles outbreaks have again brought attention to the public health threat related to the declining numbers of children being vaccinated nationwide. Wisconsin currently has one of the broadest exemptions of any state in the country. Only 16 other states allow waivers for opting out of vaccinations for all three, medical, religious, and personal reasons. Some areas in Wisconsin have the highest opt-out rates in the country. The increased use of the opt-out exemption contributes to lower immunization rates and increases the likelihood of outbreaks of preventable diseases like whooping cough, measles, and mumps.
Vaccinations are an important public health measure:
- Government has the responsibility to protect the public from harm. The decision to forgo vaccination poses a threat to others – especially babies too young to be vaccinated and those who can’t be vaccinated for legitimate health reasons. In order to keep people healthy, vaccinations require herd immunity, where 90-95% of the population are vaccinated. Vaccination is not just about protecting individuals, it’s about protecting everyone. People who choose to opt out of vaccinations are only protected by those who are vaccinated. The lower vaccination rates get, the higher the likelihood it is for an outbreak to occur.
This bill is not a mandate:
- Adults and children who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons, or are too young to be vaccinated, should not be put at risk of contracting a preventable, sometimes deadly disease, from another person who refuses to get vaccinated. If one wishes to not vaccinate their child for a legitimate medical or religious reason, this bill respects that decision.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why do people use the personal conviction waiver?
- Wisconsin’s personal conviction waiver has no restrictions. While it is understandable that there may be cases where the waiver is an option of convenience for parents that struggle to comply with the immunization requirements (e.g. they intend to get the vaccine later, or are missing documentation from other states), it is impossible to tell why the personal conviction waiver is used in each case.
Why get rid of the personal conviction waiver?
- Each state has its own vaccine requirements to attend school. Wisconsin lets parents opt-out their children for medical, religious, and personal reasons, making it one of the easiest states to opt-out of vaccinations with no further requirements. Over 90% of those who opt out of vaccinations do it for personal reasons. Removing the waiver is a step in the right direction, preventing parents from putting their children and other children at risk. Some people have legitimate medical or personal reasons for not vaccinating. They should not be at risk of contracting a preventable disease because of those who refuse to vaccinate. Ultimately, this is a preventative measure to maintain herd immunity and avoid a completely unnecessary outbreak.
Why are vaccinations important?
- Vaccines save children’s lives – not just those who are vaccinated but others around them. Estimates predict that vaccinations will prevent more than 26.8 million hospitalizations and 936,000 deaths in the U.S. among children born between 1994 and 2018. The measles vaccine has decreased childhood deaths from measles by 74%, and diseases like smallpox have been completely eradicated. Additionally, vaccines provide an economic benefit to society: children vaccinated between 1994 and 2018 have yielded net savings of $1.9 trillion in societal costs, including money saved by preventing lost productivity due to disability and early death. The United States saves about $27 per $1 invested in DTaP vaccination, and $13 per $1 spent on MMR vaccination. From a public health and economic perspective, vaccinations make sense for everyone who is able to receive them.
Are vaccines dangerous?
- Vaccines are safe and one of the greatest health developments of the 20th Century. No credible study has linked vaccination to autism, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or any other long-term illness. The overall incidence rate for severe allergic reaction to vaccines is usually placed around one case for every one or two million injections, and the instances of death resulting from vaccinations are so low that they do not register statistically. In contrast, an unvaccinated child who contracts measles faces a likelihood of death of 1 in 500. A child is far more likely to be injured by a preventable disease than by any vaccine.
Why is this bill needed in Wisconsin?
- Researchers link falling immunization rates to the recent resurgences of vaccine-preventable diseases, including the 1,044 cases of measles confirmed in 28 states this year. Wisconsin’s opt-out rates are increasing to such an extent that we may lose herd immunity, and in some rural school districts up to 20% of kindergarteners are unvaccinated. Recent measles outbreaks have occurred in places where vaccination rates are lower, putting the public at risk. AB 248 represents a common-sense, proactive action aimed at protecting public health throughout Wisconsin. It is important to reverse the trend, encourage a better understanding of vaccinations, and avoid a completely avoidable disease outbreak locally, nationally, and globally.