West Virginia tough on vaccine exemptions

The state of West Virginia (WV) has one of the toughest child vaccination regulations in the United States, not allowing any religious exemptions to vaccinations required before attending school. Only Mississippi has regulations this strict for allowable exemptions. Of course, as I have written, religious exemptions have been abused by vaccine deniers by creating “fake” religions so that parents’ antivaccination beliefs will be recognized by the state. In fact, only medical exemptions are accepted by the state (pdf), and their standards on who can meet the medical exemption are quite tough.

According to West Virginia Department of Health regulations for medical exemptions, the following rules must be followed:

10.1. The provisions of this rule may not apply if a child has a valid medical contraindication or precaution to a particular vaccine. To obtain a medical exemption the child’s parent or guardian shall present a written request for an exemption from a physician who has treated or examined the child to the local health officer in the county where the child attends school. 

10.2. The physician’s request for exemption from immunization shall state specifically which vaccine or vaccines the child should be exempt from receiving, an explanation of the medical contraindication or precaution relied upon to make the request, and whether the reason for the exemption is permanent or temporary. If the medical exemption is temporary, the request shall also provide the future date or time when the exemption should be reevaluated. 

10.3. Requests for medical exemption from vaccine requirements shall be reviewed and approved or denied initially by the local health officer in the county where the requestor attends school. Approval or denial of a request shall be in writing and a copy of the response shall be sent to the State Health Officer. 

That’s it. That’s the only exemption allowed by the state.

There have been several lawsuits by antivaccination groups in WV in an attempt to block the Department of Health’s authority in these matters. In 2011, the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decided, in Workman v. Mingo Board of Education, that “Workman’s constitutional challenges to the West Virginia statute requiring mandatory vaccination as a condition of attending school are without merit.” The plaintiff, Workman, had “alleged that Defendants’ denial of her application for a medical exemption violated her First Amendment rights” to free exercise of religion.

In October 2012, a WV court ruled that the WV Department of Health retained the authority to keep children out of school who have not received the proper vaccinations for their age. In the ruling, it also support the Department of Health’s ability to add vaccines or change the schedule. In this particular case, WV had added Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Hepatitis B, and Varicella (chickenpox) vaccines to the schedule, which the plaintiffs had tried to stop through the lawsuit. The judge wrote that, “the rule is entitled to substantial deference as it represents the best judgment of a national group with undoubted expertise and experience whose judgments are vetted before the public.” In other words, the CDC and WV Department of Health’s science based medical understanding of vaccinations trumps the anti-science beliefs of the antivaccination group.

This week, a WV judge ordered that although the Department of Health can prevent a child from attending a school because they weren’t properly vaccinated, the school district must provide home instruction. It’s difficult to understand why some person who refuses to get perfectly safe vaccines can’t just pay for a private school education. But the state needs to protect its children from communicable diseases, and this is probably an acceptable compromise for now. My concern is that more and more antivaccination parents are going to abuse this court decision, just to have the state pay for their kids education. Make them pay for their kid’s education if they are going to ignore sound science with regards to vaccines. 

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26 Replies to “West Virginia tough on vaccine exemptions”

    1. As a homeschooling parent, we pay for our own child's education, not the state, and since we are still required to pay school taxes, just as these parents probably do, then they are entitled to an education by the state. That is the law. Each state must supply an education to every child to a certain age. Now with that said a lot of states still require children under virtual school programs, paid for by the state, to get immunized even though they will not be with other children in a traditional classroom setting. I am assuming WV will seek to do the same, unless the family decides to educate on their own dime of course.

    2. Melissa, the child is being schooled at home, right now, while a lawsuit is ongoing about her not being vaccinated. Usually, in WV, children are required to be vaccinated whether they are homeschooled or not. And usually homeschooled children are not sent a teacher to teach them at home, on the state's dime. The states will go broke if every one who does not like state schooling laws sues over them and argues for a teacher to come to their home to teach their children. So, my fear is that this could get expensive. I would assume the parents will ultimately loose their legal action and the state will not have to pay for the teacher.

    3. If I was in WV I would be writing to my MP (er.. What are they, governors? Senators?) to ask why my money is being spent subsidizing someone's refusal to use the perfectly adequate facilities provided by the state.

      We've had cases like that in the UK over different issues, usually special needs and disability, but so far never this.

    4. That study is nonsense. They looked at VAERS and analyzed data as if it is meaningful. VAERS data is heresay until you get original medical records and do further study, which is what CDC and FDA do. So, those computer scientists at MIT may have done a good job with the computer model, but they did a horrible job with an autism study and should be publically shamed for even attempting to publish that utter BS. You do not use VAERS data for research. You take VAERS data and contact families and get original medical records and do further analysis and study with new medical tests and then, AND ONLY THEN, do you draw conclusions. You do not use VAERS to draw conclusions.

      bad science, very bad science. utter BS

    5. Vaccines are for money I know a lady who chooses not to her doctor asked her every time she went in if she wanted the flu shot, her husband finally said "you know we are against vaccines why do you ask every visit" the doctor proceeded to tell him because I have to say I at least have asked in order to be paid for certain things. I come from a very educated family. My father is a chiropractor as well as my uncle. I don't see why any child should "have" to be vaccinated, if our children are not and yours are vaccinated why would our children be harmful to yours? They are protected right? If parents have their beliefs to not vaccinate and would rather home school then vaccinate, why is that the wrong thing to do? no matter if your for or against them it is your choice as a parent to make decisions on the behalf of your child. I also have a friend who had a very healthy child after some if his shots he is now very autistic he can not talk barely and will never be the same little boy that he was. I do not see how all of a sudden he just became autistic. I have my views as well as yours. Im just asking from my heart to please educate yourself. Read studies view both sides. My cousins nephews and daughter have all been vax free, all very healthy hardly ever get sick. im not asking to change your beliefs it wouldn't be fair, I hope all of your children as well as you nothing but the best. God bless.

    6. We do not think of VAERS data as "heresay" at all. It is important pst marketing data that shroud be taken very seriously unless proven otherwise. Mandatory vaccination is known to harm some and kill some and we would wish for an active surveillance of vaccine reactions but a passive reporting system is all the CDC, FDA have in place. One would think with all the complaints listed on VAERS and knowing only a small fraction are reported an active surveillance would have been implemented years ago. This problem of harming children is not going away. So many harmed. No answers yet. Parents are not ignorant. They are quite intelligent really. They love their children and demand answers. They also realize no one is looking in the right places. They. Want. Answers. This is their children we are talking about. Looking at a vaccinated group of children and comparing them with another group of vaccinated children and declaring the MMR group does not have more autism than the other vaccinated group is ridiculous. Parents are not stupid. They desperately want answers. They witnessed this event. They KNOW. It is way past time to do the science. Admit what has happened and PREVENT any more casualties.

    7. I would not call a chiropractor educated. They learn some very odd things about the immune system, stuff that has not be proven by science at all. Further, autism is not caused by vaccines. And anecdotes about kids who are supposedly healthy and unvaxed are not helpful. I have read about these supposedly healthy unvaxed children who, in fact, get sick all the time but they parents think that is just normal and they think there is nothing wrong with having a cough for 100 days or itchy spots for a week or a respiratory infection for a month. Sorry, I do not for one second buy the idea that the unvaxed are healthier, particularly when studies done in Europe show that is not the case at all.

      Furthermore, vaccination is not a belief system. It is not religion. It is science. It is about evidence. NOT vaccinating is a belief, considering you have no evidence to support that choice.

    8. Indiana Coalition for Vaccination Choice Please read the vaers site: http://vaers.hhs.gov/data/index

      When reviewing data from VAERS, please keep in mind the following limitations:

      VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning that reports about adverse events are not automatically collected, but require a report to be filed to VAERS. VAERS reports can be submitted voluntarily by anyone, including healthcare providers, patients, or family members. Reports vary in quality and completeness. They often lack details and sometimes can have information that contains errors.

      "Underreporting" is one of the main limitations of passive surveillance systems, including VAERS. The term, underreporting refers to the fact that VAERS receives reports for only a small fraction of actual adverse events. The degree of underreporting varies widely. As an example, a great many of the millions of vaccinations administered each year by injection cause soreness, but relatively few of these episodes lead to a VAERS report. Physicians and patients understand that minor side effects of vaccinations often include this kind of discomfort, as well as low fevers. On the other hand, more serious and unexpected medical events are probably more likely to be reported than minor ones, especially when they occur soon after vaccination, even if they may be coincidental and related to other causes.

      A report to VAERS generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described. It only confirms that the reported event occurred sometime after vaccine was given. No proof that the event was caused by the vaccine is required in order for VAERS to accept the report. VAERS accepts all reports without judging whether the event was caused by the vaccine.

      DISCLAIMER: Please note that VAERS staff follow-up on all serious and other selected adverse event reports to obtain additional medical, laboratory, and/or autopsy records to help understand the concern raised. However, in general coding terms in VAERS do not change based on the information received during the follow-up process. VAERS data should be used with caution as numbers and conditions do not reflect data collected during follow-up. Note that the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality.

    9. I repeat

      Reports vary in quality and completeness. They often lack details and sometimes can have information that contains errors.

      Please note that VAERS staff follow-up on all serious and other selected adverse event reports to obtain additional medical, laboratory, and/or autopsy records to help understand the concern raised.

      1. I’ve heard this a couple of times now, yet my report was never followed up on, and my child started having seizures within 24 hours and stopped breathing entirely 2.5 days after vaccination. I would think that would qualify as a serious event, yet no follow up was done.

    10. You know, no one is denying that there are children with health issues and special needs. What we are not interested in is innuendo and pseudoscience and out right lies that make vaccines out to be the problem, when they are not. It has been a waste of money, all the trouble looking into a link between autism and vaccines. That has been disproven. It is time to move on and look at the real causes and ways to help these kids. Instead of beating a dead horse, you need to be more proactive and look at good solid science for answers.

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