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For Immediate Release
August 16, 2023

DHS Welcomes the CDC Director to Wisconsin to Highlight School Vaccination Rates and Urges Action Ahead of School Year

Despite an increase, Wisconsin students are still behind in vaccinations required for school, leaving them unprotected against vaccine-preventable diseases

With the school year around the corner, the Department of Health Services (DHS) welcomes CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen today to Wisconsin as part of a nationwide call to action to ensure children are ready for a healthy school year.

"We are grateful for Dr. Cohen’s visit to Wisconsin to help us spread this important health message, because we want every child ready and excited for the school year ahead. A critical part is making sure children are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases by staying up to date on school-required vaccinations," said Kirsten Johnson, Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. "Healthy children mean healthier classrooms and healthier communities, and fewer days of missed school for kids and missed work for parents and caregivers."

During the 2022-2023 school year, 89.9% of students met the minimum immunization requirements, a 1.2% increase from the previous school year. Only 2.8% of students in the 2022-2023 school year were behind schedule, a 0.5% decrease from the previous school year. Students in Wisconsin can have immunization requirements waived for religious, personal, or medical reasons. Overall, 5.4% of students had a waiver for one or more vaccines for the 2022-2023 school year, a 1.2% increase from the previous year.

"Nationally, and in Wisconsin, we have seen a decrease over the past several years in the number of children who are up to date on their recommended childhood vaccinations, so we are pleased to see parents and caregivers getting their children caught up and protected ahead of this coming school year," said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, DHS Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist. "Vaccines are safe, effective, and one of the strongest tools we as parents have to prevent our children from getting a vaccine-preventable disease."

Parents and caregivers can check the Wisconsin Immunization Registry or contact their regular doctor, community clinic, or local or tribal health department to find what vaccines their children may need. New for the 2023-2024 school year is a change to the recommended age at which children should receive the Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis. It is now required at the start of seventh grade to better align with the recommended age (age 11) at which children should receive the vaccine.

School-required vaccinations are widely available at pharmacies and health care providers, including local and tribal health departments, across Wisconsin. Children who do not have health insurance, or whose insurance may not cover vaccination, may be able to receive vaccines at no cost through the Vaccines for Children program. Parents and guardians can dial 211 for help finding a local doctor, clinic, or Vaccines for Children provider.

Visit Back to School for Parents and Families on the DHS website for helpful information about kids’ routine vaccines, and other useful tips for a healthy school year.

Last revised August 16, 2023