The following was released by the Department of Health Services (DHS).

Updates follow federal recommendations to protect children and communities against vaccine-preventable diseases

Today, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced updates to immunizations needed for children in child care centers and schools. The changes include a requirement for meningitis vaccination and that chickenpox infection must be documented by a qualified medical professional. There is no change to existing exemption options for medical, religious, or philosophical reasons.

These changes, which were initially effective for Wisconsin schools and child care centers on February 1, 2023, align with long-standing childhood vaccine recommendations made by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and advisory committee of health experts who develop national recommendations regarding vaccination safety and schedules. Implementation of Wisconsin's updated school and child care immunization requirements was paused on March 9, 2023, when some of the requirements were suspended by the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. That suspension expired at the end of the legislative session on April 15, 2024, making these school and child care immunization requirements now fully in effect.

"For decades, both varicella (chicken pox) and meningitis vaccines have been recommended as safe and effective for children by medical experts, and this update to our state requirements improves how we can protect children as well as their entire schools and communities from these vaccine-preventable illnesses," said DHS Secretary-designee Kirsten Johnson. "When parents make the choice to keep their child up to date on vaccinations, it not only protects their own child, but also protects other children, their families, and the people who live and work in our schools and communities."

Wisconsin's most recent vaccination rates in schools for 2023-2024 show:

  • 89.2% of school-age students met the minimum immunization requirements. That's a 0.7% decrease from the previous year.
  • 1.9% of school-age students were behind schedule on their vaccinations. That's a 0.9% decrease from the previous year.

"Every day in schools and child care centers across the state kids are playing, learning together, and growing together – just as they should. This also creates a higher chance for illnesses to spread. Vaccines safeguard each child who is vaccinated - and the more children who are vaccinated, the more protected an entire school and community is," said State Health Officer Paula Tran. "To keep kids healthy and fully participating in school activities and after school events, DHS encourages parents and caregivers to talk to their pediatricians and make sure their children are up to date on immunizations."

Over the coming months, DHS will work with partners to support implementation of these updated requirements.

Child care centers will begin working with parents now to ensure children have proper chickenpox disease documentation or vaccination. Schools will implement these changes for the 2024-2025 school year. Middle and high schools will begin working with parents to ensure that children entering seventh grade receive a meningococcal (MenACWY-containing) vaccine, and that students entering 12th grade receive a meningococcal (MenACWY-containing) booster.

Any Wisconsin parent or guardian who has questions about their child's vaccination record can contact their child's primary doctor, health care provider, community clinic, local or Tribal health department, or check online through the Wisconsin Immunization Registry.

If children are behind schedule for any recommended vaccine, parents and guardians can contact their regular doctor or clinic. If you do not have a regular doctor or clinic, or if your health insurance may not cover vaccines, programs are available to support you. For free, confidential support finding a local health care provider or clinic, including Vaccines for Children Program providers who can provide no- or low-cost vaccines for children, dial 211.

Learn more about immunizations needed for children in child care centers and schools in Wisconsin on the DHS website.