Bills look to ease vaccine requirements in W.Va.

Published: Jan. 9, 2020 at 6:47 PM EST
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Multiple bills have already been introduced in the West Virginia legislative session, looking to provide exceptions to vaccine requirements for children entering public school or care.

Children are currently required to be vaccinated for chickenpox, hepatitis B, measles, meningitis, mumps, diphtheria, polio, rubella, tetanus and whooping cough. Exemptions can only be approved by the state for specific issues.

Lawmakers are looking to add exceptions for religious reasons or personal objections. Sen. Mark Maynard, who is sponsoring one of the bills in the Senate, said the proposal gives families more options about their health.

"I think parents should be allowed to decide the destiny of their children, if they feel it really be religious beliefs for whatever reason," Maynard said. "It is a freedom thing."

Maynard said he is not an "anti-vaxxer," people who do not believe in vaccinating their children, but has heard many horror stories from his constituents who had negative reactions to vaccines.

"I personally know a couple of cases," Maynard said. "One boy was progressing great until he turned a year old and got his vaccinations. He was talking and everything, and he locked up and never said a word for a year."

Maynard said West Virginia has the most restrictive vaccination laws in the country, and his proposal has the support of doctor's research.

"This is one thing West Virginia does right," West Virginia Health Right CEO Dr. Angie Settle said. "It's one of things that we are tops in the nation for, and other states like California and others have replicated our laws."

Settle said mandatory vaccinations have been a good thing to eliminate deadly and preventable diseases from being brought to the state. She has given her six children every FDA approved vaccine as a precaution.

"They need to have that vaccine because it protects the ones who can't have it," Settle said. "It protects the people that are on chemotherapy, it protects the young babies that have gotten the vaccines they can have so far, but they're not the right age to get a vaccine yet."

Maynard's bill, Senate Bill 220, has been given to the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. He is looking to add language to allow people to file lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers for wrongdoing and an exemption for private schools.