Vaccines are one of the greatest public health achievements in human history. They have saved millions of lives by preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Thanks to the MMR vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared measles to be eliminated in 2000. Unfortunately, we have seen decreasing immunization rates across the country. This is especially concerning as more than 1,000 cases of measles have been confirmed in 2019 – the highest number on record in the U.S. since 1994.
Here in Wisconsin, vaccine waivers have become far more frequent over the last 20 years. Opt-out rates are 5 times higher now than they were during the 1997-98 school year. Wisconsin is one of only 18 states that allows parents to exempt their children from vaccinations for personal reasons. Other states only allow medical or religious waivers. Wisconsin's personal waiver has no restrictions. Over 90% of those who opt-out of vaccinations in Wisconsin do it for personal reasons.
To increase immunization rates and avoid the potential spread of infectious disease, I have introduced legislation to eliminate the personal conviction waiver in Wisconsin. In addition to this legislation, we need to encourage a better understanding of vaccinations. Ultimately this is a preventative measure to avoid a completely unnecessary outbreak in our state.