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What’s stopping COVID-19 vaccinations from being required for school?

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- Wisconsin, and other states across the country, are quickly realizing that getting younger demographics vaccinated will play an important role in reaching herd immunity.

So, what is standing in the way from making it a requirement for schools?

As of Monday, about 35.5% of Wisconsinites have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, of those about 11% are under the age of 18.

"This is really one of our most important strategies to prevent illness in adults and children," said Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer for Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Calls for everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine are being echoed by the states top officials.

Which includes about 200,000 high school aged kids in Wisconsin.

"We would like to see this as a core public health message. The same way as eating right, getting plenty of sleep and exercising, is getting your COVID vaccine," said Westergaard.

Parents and students are already seeing requirements for Universities from Notre Dame to Rutgers. Doing so because it's their legal right as private schools.

But so far, public colleges in Wisconsin are leaving it up to the students.

Including Nicolet college in the Northwoods, and the University of Wisconsin system.

"We believe our methods, our approach, has worked for us and the requirement isn't necessary. So, its not on the table right now," said Richard Nelson, President of Nicolet College.

There's no law in Wisconsin requiring a COVID vaccine to go back to school.

Something like that would require the legislature to step in. But a vote, or even a consideration, is unlikely, given the political debate surrounding the vaccine.

"I would not want to see it a mandatory on that. Especially with some of the science coming out with the risk of our younger kids," said State Representative Patrick Snyder, (R) Wausau.

Even if it were put into law, parents are still allowed to object to any vaccinations their kids receive.

According to the Wisconsin Student Immunization law, waivers can be issued for personal conviction, religious, or medical reasons.

Wisconsin is just one of fifteen states that allow a personal conviction waiver for school immunizations.

"I still think its up to the parents," continued Snyder.

But those obstacles cant stop schools from pushing students to get a vaccine on their own, and health officials agree.

"I would definitely incentivize to get it," said Dr. Larry Gordon, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics at Aspirus.

And promotion campaigns could soon be a fixture in lunchrooms across Wisconsin.

"I think it will be like; Go get your drivers license and then drive and go get your vaccine now," said Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk, Wisconsin DHS.

In North central Wisconsin, News 9 spoke with school districts from across our area, including Wausau, DC Everest and Stevens Point.

Some say they didn't want to comment, others, that they're waiting for direction from local health officials.

For now, it's something that's up to you and your family.

Until, and unless, state or health officials decide that its not.

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