CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill in the West Virginia Senate has been introduced to provide exemptions from mandatory immunizations for medical, religious and personal objections.
Introduced in the Senate on last week, the bill was referenced to the Health and Human Resources Committee. Senators Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, is the lead sponsor of the bill, Senate Bill 454, while Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, and Sue Cline, R-Wyoming, are also sponsors.
The chairman of the Health and Human Resources Committee, Senator Mike Maroney, is a physician. He is chairman of radiology at Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale and Wetzel County Hospital. Senate committee chairs have significant latitude in determining what bills the committees will actually take up.
The bill would provide these exemptions to any parent or legal guardian making decisions for their child, anyone 18 years or older in higher education and employees in the private sector.
Maynard spoke about the bill on the Senate floor when pressed to defend it.
He said parents want more exemptions.
“There has been discontent from parents who have legitimate medical exemption concerns that are not addressed by current layers of bureaucracy when it comes to getting a medical exemption,” he said.
There are already some medical exemptions for vaccinations that would still exist in the passing of this legislation but the bill adds that any parent or legal guardian can exempt their child to immunization requirements because of religious beliefs or a conscientious/personal objection to the immunization of the child.
Currently, immunization is required in West Virginia for a child entering any public school or state-regulated child care center against chickenpox, hepatitis-b, measles, meningitis, mumps, diphtheria, polio, rubella, tetanus, and whooping cough.
“With religious and conscientious concerns, not only with the increase of autism that is thought to be linked to vaccination but the fact that embryos that are derived from abortions that are used in these vaccinations, should be enough reasons for parents to exempt their child,” Maynard said.
“The people that are concerned and think vaccinations are appropriate for everyone, they will still have the right to have their kids vaccinated and prevent them from getting any of these diseases that are thought to be derived from vaccinations.”
Research by the Central of Disease Control and Prevention shows that vaccines do not cause autism.
State Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone, spoke on the floor against the bill and referenced the recent measles outbreak in the Northwest United States, where Washington declared a State of Emergency.
The Washington State Department of Health (WSDH) recorded 42 cases of measles in the state in January.
“Washington is one of those states that allow for these same exemptions that Senate Bill 454 would provide for our citizens here in West Virginia,” he said.
“When I look back and see these other outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, there seems to be a halo around states like West Virginia that allows for medical exemptions for vaccines, but not for these religious and conscientious objections.”
According to the WSDH website, there is a state law in Washington that allows parents or legal guardians to exempt their child from the school or child care immunization requirements based on personal, religious or medical reasons.
Stollings said he wants people to pay attention and educate themselves about the safe, substantial benefit that vaccines bring to society.
“With little or no negative consequences,” he said. “You might get a sore arm for a day or two after you get your vaccine. And if you do have a medical exemption to get a vaccine, you don’t have to get it here in West Virginia.”