Measles is back in the US. Thirty states across the county have reported cases so far this year — including Illinois, Iowa and Michigan.
Wisconsin hasn’t seen an outbreak yet. But it’s one of a handful of states that allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids before sending them to school.
State Rep. Gordon Hintz introduced a bill that would have eliminated personal conviction waivers for vaccines for the second time this session. That’s the box parents can check to send their kids to school without required vaccinations.
“We introduced it after meeting with public health experts on what’s the best thing that we could do if we wanted to reverse the trend of people not getting vaccinated,” Hintz said. “Hopefully it starts the discussion, but I think sometimes you need to have an outbreak and I would prefer that we don’t have that. My goal overall is to keep people as healthy as possible and to avoid diseases that are completely preventable.”
But Democratic Minority Leader Hintz says that now, the bill is pretty much dead in the water. At least for this session.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos referred the bill to the committee on Constitution and Ethics, where it wasn’t given a public hearing. Vos’ office didn’t return a request for comment by air time.
Chair of the committee Republican Rep. Chuck Wichgers says he doesn’t think the bill as is has enough support among lawmakers.
“I don’t think anyone at the Capitol is against vaccines,” Wichgers said. “But I think people have a lot of questions why we would put a bill forward that would limit the rights of parents on when, where, why and how to give their children medicine.”
Parents who are concerned about vaccines say they can have harmful side effects.
But Malia Jones, a scientist who researches vaccine refusal at UW Madison, says vaccinating kids before school is imperative to preventing the spread of disease.
And she says eliminating the personal convictions waiver would help prevent outbreaks in Wisconsin.
“Several states have made changes to their policy requiring vaccines in order to send children to school,” Jones said. “What we’ve seen when other states have changed their policies is that eliminating the personal conviction waiver, or just making it more difficult to get, does reduce the number of exempted students in the state.”
The recently signed state budget allocates $100,000 to vaccine education. A spokesperson for the state’s health services department says they haven’t decided exactly how they’ll spend the money yet.
The state health department also has a public hearing about immunization of students on Friday morning.