RACINE COUNTY — Vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles are making a comeback in some areas of the United States with unvaccinated populations.

While most schools in Racine County have high vaccination rates for students, the numbers vary from school to school; some have rates that are significantly lower than what epidemiologists say are ideal to prevent outbreaks.

Generally, the percentage of children who are fully vaccinated was slightly lower at schools in the western part of the county than at Racine Unified schools, and significantly lower at some private and parochial schools, according to information from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for the 2017-18 school year.

Wisconsin requires that students receive a minimum number of immunizations at certain ages and grade levels. Students are required to receive vaccines for polio, hepatitis B, chicken pox and a combined vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella. These requirements can be waived for health reasons, because of religious beliefs or because of personal convictions. This means that a school can have a low vaccination rate, but still be compliance with the law, as long as unvaccinated students have waivers.

Local rates

At most Racine Unified schools, 90 percent or more students are up to date on vaccinations, with more than 95 percent fully vaccinated at the vast majority of elementary schools.

Unified spokeswoman Stacy Tapp attributed the district’s high vaccination rates to its regular communication with parents about immunizations.

This includes sending “friendly reminder letters” each summer to students who will require immunizations in the coming year, and then double checking those students against the Wisconsin Immunization Registry in the fall.

The school with the lowest vaccination rate in the county — at 61 percent — is Union Grove Christian School, 417 15th Ave. (Highway 11), in Union Grove. The school also has the highest personal conviction waiver rate, at 39 percent. The school is run by Union Grove Baptist church and serves 57 students in grades 4K-12.

David Ruhman, the school’s administrator, said Union Grove Christian provides the same information to parents as any other school.

“Obviously we do a lot to adhere to the wishes of parents,” he said. “Some of our parents have strong convictions (against vaccination).”

Ruhman said the low immunization rate does not concern him and that the school has not experienced any outbreaks related to vaccine-preventable diseases.

The school with the second-lowest vaccination rate in the county is St. John’s Lutheran School in Burlington at 79 percent fully vaccinated. It has 18 percent personal conviction waiver rate. The third-lowest is Racine Montessori School with an 80 percent full vaccination rate and 15 percent of students with waivers.

Why waiver?

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It is unclear what exactly causes parents across the country and in Racine County not to vaccinate, but some could be related to a now-discredited report connecting vaccines to autism, as well as other vaccine misinformation being spread online. While parents who do not vaccinate might have good intentions, when certain vaccination thresholds are not met, it puts the general population at risk of outbreaks.

Herd immunity is when enough members of a population are vaccinated that it prevents germs from easily traveling from person to person.

According to a peer-reviewed report in Epidemiologic Reviews, to maintain herd immunity vaccination rates should be around 94 percent for pertussis, 83-94 percent for measles, 75-86 for mumps, 85 percent for rubella and 80-86 percent for polio. The Central Racine County Health Department uses these numbers as guidance.

The Health Department provides documents for schools to hand out to parents telling them where they can get vaccines.

“We work with schools to encourage overall compliance,” said Jeffrey Langlieb, community health director with the Central Racine County Health Department.

Langlieb said the Wisconsin parental waiver process does not provide much information about why parents decided to waive vaccination, leaving those wishing to promote vaccination levels to guess.

The CRCHD encourages school districts to look at their personal conviction waiver rates and to work with families to find out why they have waived, and to encourage immunization.

Langlieb said some parents might sign a waiver right before a cut off date, but then get their vaccinated later, making the state’s statistics inaccurate.

Langlieb said the health department has worked with some schools in the county with lower student immunization rates to ensure its teachers are vaccinated, in the case of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.

Vaccination rates in Racine County schools

Data is from the 2017-18 school year.

CitySchool Name% Met Minimum Requirements% Personal Conviction Waiver
RacineSaint Lucy Grade Sch>95%<5%
WaterfordSaint Thomas Aquinas Cath Sch93%<5%
BurlingtonLyons Ctr93%7%
FranksvilleDrought El94%6%
RacineSmall World Montessori>95%<5%
RacineJefferson Lighthouse El>95%<5%
WaterfordWashington El92%7%
RacineTrinity Lutheran School LC-MS>95%<5%
RacineHope Christian School: Via>95%<5%
RacineWadewitz El95%<5%
RacineJones El>95%<5%
SturtevantSchulte El>95%<5%
RacineMitchell El95%<5%
RacineJerstad-Agerholm El95%<5%
RacineJanes El94%<5%
RacineJohn Paul II Academy>95%<5%
Racine21st Century Prep Sch90%<5%
RacineSaint Joseph Grade Sch>95%<5%
RacineWisconsin Lutheran Sch94%<5%
RacineRed Apple El>95%<5%
RacineRenaissance Sch>95%<5%
RacineJohnson El>95%<5%
RacineWest Ridge El>95%<5%
Wind LakeLakeview El>95%<5%
RacineSaint Johns Lutheran Sch92%<5%
RacineNorth Park El95%<5%
BurlingtonSaint Marys Grade Sch>95%<5%
RacineFine Arts El94%<5%
RacineOur Lady of Grace Acad>95%<5%
FranksvilleNorth Cape El93%5%
WaterfordWoodfield El92%7%
BurlingtonWinkler El91%9%
SturtevantConcordia Lutheran School92%<5%
WaterfordTrailside El93%7%
BurlingtonCooper El93%6%
RacineGiese El93%<5%
WaterfordEvergreen El92%7%
RacineGifford El>95%<5%
BurlingtonWaller El92%<5%
RacineO Brown El>95%<5%
RacineJulian Thomas El93%<5%
RacineKnapp El95%<5%
RacineFratt El94%<5%
Union GroveUnion Grove El90%9%
RacineRoosevelt El>95%<5%
RacineGoodland El90%<5%
Union GroveYorkville El95%<5%
RacineRUSD Montessori88%<5%
RacinePrairie Sch>95%<5%
CaledoniaTrinity Lutheran Sch Wis Synod84%15%
FranksvilleRaymond El92%7%
RacineEverGreen Academy86%<5%
BurlingtonSaint Charles Grade Sch86%12%
RacineRacine Montessori Sch80%15%
RacineSaint Rita Sch>95%<5%
KansasvilleKansasville El87%13%
BurlingtonSaint Johns Lutheran Sch79%18%
RacineRacine Christian Sch86%14%
Union GroveUnion Grove Christian Sch61%39%
RacineAll Dist 4 Yr Old Kindergarten90%<5%
RacineSaint Catherines Hi>95%<5%
RacineJerstad-Agerholm Mid95%<5%
RacineWalden III Hi>95%<5%
RacineThe REAL School95%<5%
RacineMcKinley Mid91%7%
Burlington4K Community Sch88%8%
WaterfordWaterford Hi94%<5%
RacineHorlick Hi>95%<5%
RacinePark Hi>95%<5%
RacineStarbuck Mid89%8%
RacineRacine Alternative Lrng 6-12>95%<5%
RacineCase Hi>95%<5%
Union GroveUnion Grove Hi94%<5%
RacineMitchell Mid89%7%
WaterfordFox River Mid91%7%
RacineRacine Early Education Ctr89%<5%
BurlingtonCatholic Central High School94%<5%
BurlingtonDr Edward G Dyer Sch90%<5%
BurlingtonBurlington Hi93%6%
RacineGilmore Mid91%7%
RacineLutheran High School>95%<5%
BurlingtonNettie E Karcher Sch94%<5%

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Caitlin Sievers covers cops, crime and the west-end communities. She's a lover of cats, dance and Harry Potter. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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