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Vaccine advocates urge veto of West Virginia bill weakening school immunizations

By Steven Allen Adams, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Representatives of the state’s public school teachers and public health professionals are urging Gov. Jim Justice to veto a bill they see as a slippery slope to undoing West Virginia’s successful child immunization program.

Supporters of the state’s school vaccine program are urging a veto of House Bill 5105, eliminating the vaccine requirements for public virtual schools. The bill made it over the midnight Saturday deadline bringing the 60-day legislative session to a close last week.

The bill would eliminate vaccine requirements for school students for those participating in one of the two statewide virtual public schools or future county-level virtual public charter schools except when those students are participating in activities supervised by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission.

HB 5105 would continue to require immunizations for virtual school students if they are also participating in in-person school programs. It also expands vaccine exemptions to students attending private or parochial schools in the state, while allowing those schools to set their own vaccination requirements.State Code requires children attending school in West Virginia to show proof of immunization for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, and hepatitis B unless proof of a medical exemption can be shown. West Virginia only provides for a medical exemption to immunizations.

Fred Albert is president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers which is merging with the West Virginia Education Association, making the combined union organization the voice of teachers in the state. Speaking Wednesday to members of the West Virginia Board of Education, Albert urged board members to contact Justice and encourage him to veto the bill.

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