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.
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.
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.
|City||School Name||% Met Minimum Requirements||% Personal Conviction Waiver|
|Racine||Saint Lucy Grade Sch||>95%||<5%|
|Waterford||Saint Thomas Aquinas Cath Sch||93%||<5%|
|Racine||Small World Montessori||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||Jefferson Lighthouse El||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||Trinity Lutheran School LC-MS||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||Hope Christian School: Via||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||John Paul II Academy||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||21st Century Prep Sch||90%||<5%|
|Racine||Saint Joseph Grade Sch||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||Wisconsin Lutheran Sch||94%||<5%|
|Racine||Red Apple El||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||West Ridge El||>95%||<5%|
|Wind Lake||Lakeview El||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||Saint Johns Lutheran Sch||92%||<5%|
|Racine||North Park El||95%||<5%|
|Burlington||Saint Marys Grade Sch||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||Fine Arts El||94%||<5%|
|Racine||Our Lady of Grace Acad||>95%||<5%|
|Franksville||North Cape El||93%||5%|
|Sturtevant||Concordia Lutheran School||92%||<5%|
|Racine||O Brown El||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||Julian Thomas El||93%||<5%|
|Union Grove||Union Grove El||90%||9%|
|Union Grove||Yorkville El||95%||<5%|
|Caledonia||Trinity Lutheran Sch Wis Synod||84%||15%|
|Burlington||Saint Charles Grade Sch||86%||12%|
|Racine||Racine Montessori Sch||80%||15%|
|Racine||Saint Rita Sch||>95%||<5%|
|Burlington||Saint Johns Lutheran Sch||79%||18%|
|Racine||Racine Christian Sch||86%||14%|
|Union Grove||Union Grove Christian Sch||61%||39%|
|Racine||All Dist 4 Yr Old Kindergarten||90%||<5%|
|Racine||Saint Catherines Hi||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||Walden III Hi||>95%||<5%|
|Racine||The REAL School||95%||<5%|
|Burlington||4K Community Sch||88%||8%|
|Racine||Racine Alternative Lrng 6-12||>95%||<5%|
|Union Grove||Union Grove Hi||94%||<5%|
|Waterford||Fox River Mid||91%||7%|
|Racine||Racine Early Education Ctr||89%||<5%|
|Burlington||Catholic Central High School||94%||<5%|
|Burlington||Dr Edward G Dyer Sch||90%||<5%|
|Racine||Lutheran High School||>95%||<5%|
|Burlington||Nettie E Karcher Sch||94%||<5%|