Latest News, WVPA Sharing

WV Senate Education Committee OKs school vaccination exemptions


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill allowing for exemptions for students from receiving vaccinations before enrolling in public schools narrowly cleared the West Virginia Senate Education Committee on Thursday.

The body has spent its last several sessions hearing testimony from doctors regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccines.

Current law requires public school students to receive vaccinations from several different diseases including chicken pox, hepatitis B, measles, meningitis, mumps, diphtheria, polio, rubella, tetanus and whooping cough.

The committee voted 7-6 to send the proposal to the Senate floor, with the recommendation that the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee look it over first.

The proposed bill also allows for exemption from a vaccination mandate at colleges, universities, vocational schools and in the workplace.

Students only are allowed out of the mandate if they show a physician’s note saying that the specific immunization could cause a health problem.

At the various hearings, speakers and counsel drew brow-raising questions from different committee members.

On Thursday, Dr. Sharon Istfan, who has practiced medicine in Charleston for upward of 20 years, urged the committee to shoot down the proposal, saying it would be “moving backward” in terms of science and medicine.

“The vast amount of medical literature overwhelmingly supports immunization in its effectiveness and necessity in public health,” she said.

Likewise, Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, said the proposal is an insult to years of medical progress, citing Jonas Salk, who created the groundbreaking polio vaccine.

“I wonder how Jonas Salk would have felt if we eradicated polio only 50 percent of the way, but it was still around and getting transmitted because not everyone got inoculated,” he said.

However, the bill drew support from senators and physicians alike.

Two doctors, Dr. Alvin Moss, a professor at the West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, and Dr. Suzanne Humphries, author of the controversial “Dissolving Illusions,” an anti-vaccination book, both testified that vaccinations can be dangerous and ineffective. Both of those doctors conceded their views were in the minority of health professionals.

For more information on the contents, efficacy and need for vaccinations, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ sub-site at

West Virginia is one of three states, along with California and Mississippi that does not allow for any exemptions from school immunization requirements, according to research from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

However, 20 other states allow for philosophical exemptions, which can include religious reasons, according to the same source.

See more from the Charleston Gazette-Mail

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address