Wisconsin Republicans block meningitis vaccine requirement for students

The Republican-controlled state Senate and Assembly voted to block a Wisconsin Department of Health Services proposal to require seventh grade students in the state be vaccinated against meningitis.

Associated Press

June 7, 2023

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Wisconsin Assembly officers and staff sit and stand at seats on a legislative dais flanked by the U.S. and Wisconsin flags in a room with wood-paneled walls and carvings, with a WisEye-branded video graphic on the bottom of the image noting a Wisconsin State Assembly Floor Session discussion on Assembly Bill 229, described as Prohibiting certain actions by DPS related to the immunization program.

The Wisconsin Assembly considers Assembly Bill 229 at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, on June 7, 2023. The Republican-controlled Assembly and state Senate took the final step needed to stop Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' administration from requiring 7th graders to be vaccinated against meningitis. (Credit: Courtesy of WisconsinEye)

AP News

By Scott Bauer, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature on June 7 voted to stop Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration from requiring seventh graders to be vaccinated against meningitis.

The state Senate and Assembly, with all Republicans in support and Democrats against, voted to block the proposal. There is no current meningitis vaccination requirement for Wisconsin students.

The Legislature’s vote also makes it easier for parents to get an exemption from a chicken pox vaccine requirement that is in place for all K-6 students. Evers’ administration wanted to require parents seeking a chicken pox vaccination exemption to provide proof that their child has previously been infected.

Families could still seek waivers from the meningitis vaccination and chickenpox proof requirements for medical, religious or philosophical reasons, just as they can for other vaccinations.

The Advisory Council on Immunization Practices — experts who advise the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — has recommended that students get vaccinated against meningitis since 2005.

However, some parents complained at a public hearing that the proposed requirements violated their liberties. Health officials said they were trying to protect students’ health.

Meningitis is an infection of the brain and spinal cord that can also cause blood infections. It can be deadly or cause lifelong disability. Rates of the disease have declined in the United States since the 1990s and remain low in Wisconsin and across the country, according to the CDC.

Vaccines for both meningitis and chicken pox are widely used and have been proven to be safe and effective.

In March, a Republican-led legislative committee voted to block the proposed policy changes, just as it did two years earlier and despite the objections of Democrats and health officials. The Legislature’s vote on June 7 is the final step needed to stop enactment of the policy.

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