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West Virginia occasionally gets it right


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West Virginia isn’t frequently lumped together with the more progressive states in the country. But sometimes, there are surprises.

I admit that I keep up with all kinds of news articles dealing with vaccines and vaccinations. I read about new vaccines in development. I read about new vaccine technologies that might prevent autoimmune diseases, like Type 1 diabetes. And I read articles about vaccinations from community newspapers, like this story in a local West Virginia newspaper, where I’m reminded of how advanced West Virginia is, at least with respect to vaccines: 

Beginning last year, and continuing every year after, older students entering the seventh and twelfth grade will have shot requirements that must be met before the start of the school year.

Seventh and twelfth grade students will not be allowed to attend school this fall without proof of these immunizations. It is important that once you receive the vaccines and the providers update your immunization record, that the school nurse is sent a copy of the vaccines for their records.

The Mason County Health Department recently sent out a reminder that seventh grade students must show proof of a booster dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine and one dose of meningococcal/meningitis vaccine. Twelfth grade students also must show proof of a dose of Tdap (ususally obtained at age 11-12 years) plus at least one dose of meningococcal/meningitis vaccine after the age of 16 years. If the student received a meningococcal vaccine prior to the age of 16, a second meningococcal vaccine will be required for the twelfth grade.

These vaccines can be obtained at the physician’s office along with a comprehensive medical exam. Some physicians that adolescents see may not offer the vaccines. In those cases the health department can help. If you have private insurance that pays for vaccines but your physician does not provide vaccines, the physician will provide you with a referral form that you can take to the health department along with the most current immunization record. If your insurance does not cover vaccine, you may obtain vaccines at the health department as well as if you have Medicaid, CHIPS or no insurance.

Mason County Health Department staff remind it is important that you have a copy of your child’s immunization record when you go to the physician’s office or the health department. Although the state of West Virginia has a statewide immunization registry, not all physicians participate in the registry. This registry allows your child’s immunization record to be obtained on the computer and shared from one physicians office to the other as well as health departments.

According to health department staff, immunizations are one area of your child’s health care that is often overlooked when they become adolescents but it’s never too early to start planning for a child’s health care, regardless of their age.

If you have questions about the vaccines, call your doctor, health department or school nurse. Mason County Health Department staff recommend not waiting until fall to make a doctors appointment to get these vaccines.

It’s a short article about a local health department requiring vaccinations before kids enroll in school. I see dozens of these type of articles every day, but this one is different. Note the total lack of any information about personal or religious exemptions vaccinations. Because….West Virginia law does not allow for non-medical exemptions for school entry.

Let me repeat what I’ve written before, and before. I am strongly opposed to ALL personal exemptions to vaccines, and that viewpoint is supported in the United States by the Supreme Court ruling in Jacobson v United States which states that the freedom of the individual must sometimes be subordinated to the common welfare and is subject to the police power of the state. In other words, if vaccine denialists want to use public schools, then they must vaccinate. The common good outweighs personal beliefs, especially if that personal belief is unsupported by facts and evidence. Moreover, since the issue usually involves enrollment in public schools, they can choose an alternative route for educating their kids. They could enroll their children in private schools, although most of those schools tend to have tough standards for vaccinations, because those don’t want their children being exposed to diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. So guess what? If you want to educate your child in West Virginia, then they must be vaccinated unless you have a very specific medical exemption.

I am also extremely offended by the existence of religious exemptions in any case. Religious exemptions for vaccines should not exist in a secular country. If you want a religious exemption, then please send your child to a religious school that is against vaccination (good luck, because not one single mainstream religion is opposed to vaccinations). Because a public school is a public institution, and according to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution public schools cannot favor one religious group over another. Or over those who don’t care about religion. In fact, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are opposed to almost all medical procedures, are not opposed to vaccinations. 

By creating a “religious exemption”, teachers and administrators are supposed to determine if it is a valid religion (or worse yet, not even examining it), something way outside the realm of authority for a public official. It is just offensive on so many levels.

Eliminate personal and religious vaccinations, period, end of story. If a vaccine denier wants to abuse their child by not having them vaccinated, then they don’t get the cover of their personal beliefs about it or a fake religion. They must show it medically. 

Good for West Virginia. Keep those vaccine deniers at bay. 

 

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