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Tuesday - June 19, 2018 2:28 am

New study puts Wisconsin among states at higher risk for outbreaks over lack of vaccinations

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Heat map of county-level nonmedical exemption.rates in 2016 to 2017. Heat map of county-level nonmedical exemption.rates in 2016 to 2017.

Wisconsin is one of 18 states in the country that allows non-medical exemptions (NME) for those who don't want to get themselves or their child vaccinated.

A newly released study, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Medicine, found that those states have created hotspots, where contracting diseases like the measles is growing.

Of those 18 states, 12 — including Wisconsin — have shown an increase in the number of kindergarten-age children enrolled in school with NME rates since 2009.

The study also shows people in Wisconsin are taking advantage of allowing NMEs, including La Crosse, which has a higher-than-average non-vaccination rate.

It's dangerous ground to be walking, says Gundersen Health System pediatrician Raj Naik in La Crosse.

"We're not only depending on immunizing our own children, we depend on something called herd immunity," he said. "And, when there are pockets of un-immunized people, even those that are immunized could be at risk."

Naik said people in states like Wisconsin can claim to not get vaccinated for personal reasons, and sometimes those reasons are false claims of side effects — like getting autism, a widely debunked theory.

“Vaccines are very safe,” Naik said. “As safe as anything we do medically and the benefits include saving lives and saving hospitalizations.”

Naik says the health industry does its best to debunk the rumors and theories.

Drew Kelly

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