MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has announced updates to its immunization requirements for children in childcare centers and schools.
The new requirements include updated guidelines for meningitis and whooping cough immunizations, and documentation of previous chickenpox infection by a qualified medical professional. There are no changes to the existing exemptions for medical, religious or philosophical reasons. Seasonal flu and COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory but remain highly recommended.
Starting immediately, childcare centers must work with parents to ensure children have proper chickenpox vaccine documentation. At the same time, schools will implement the changes for the 2023-2024 school year. This update is in line with changes to Wisconsin’s immunization regulation (Wis. Admin. Code DHS 144) and Wisconsin Statutes chapter 227, effective Feb. 1, 2023. DHS will work with its partners to ensure a smooth implementation of these changes.
“These vaccines are already recommended for children, and today’s update improves their protection,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Deb Standridge. “Parents who choose to keep their children up to date on vaccines protect not only their own child’s health but also the health of those in their communities. Vaccines are safe and effective and are one of the strongest tools we have to prevent getting sick from diseases, which can be deadly, especially to young children. DHS encourages all parents to work with their child’s healthcare provider to ensure their child is up to date on immunizations.”
Parents and guardians can contact 211 for help finding a local provider or clinic or a Vaccines for Children program provider.
The Vaccines for Children program provides low or no-cost vaccines for eligible individuals. Parents and guardians can also contact their child’s primary doctor, healthcare provider, community clinic, local or Tribal health department or check their child’s vaccination record online through the Wisconsin Immunization Registry.
Catching up on vaccinations
Vaccination rates for childcare centers and schools in Wisconsin have declined as parents and providers work to catch up on vaccinations that were put on hold during the pandemic.
According to data from the 2021-2022 school year, 88.7% of students in Wisconsin met the minimum immunization requirements, a 3.2% decrease from the previous year, while 3.3% of students were behind schedule on their vaccinations, a 0.4% increase from the prior year.
Wisconsin state law allows for immunization waivers for philospophical, religious and medical reasons.
Dr. Stephanie Schauer, immunization program manager at DHS, said the medical waivers have remained “fairly low,” but the philosophic reasons for parents opting not to vaccinate their children has been on the rise.
“Keep in mind that this isn’t just individuals who are waiving all vaccines,” she said. “If they waive even one vaccine, they are counted in that group. But nevertheless, we are seeing an increase and that probably is due to a number of different factors. But as you mentioned, it may be concerns about vaccines, and in that case, we certainly recommend talking with health care providers about their concerns.”
Useful Links Regarding Immunizations
- Click here to view Vaccine Information Statements.
- Click here to look up your child’s Immunization Record on the Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR).
- Click here to view WI School Immunization Requirements.