WV lawmakers relax school vaccinations

West Virginia's GOP-controlled state Legislature voted to allow some students to be exempt from state vaccination requirements.


National News

March 11, 2024 - 2:01 PM

Photo by Pixabay.com

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s GOP-controlled state Legislature voted Saturday to allow some students who don’t attend traditional public schools to be exempt from state vaccination requirements that have long been held up as among the most strict in the country.

The bill was approved despite the objections of Republican Senate Health and Human Resources Chair Mike Maroney, a trained doctor, who called the bill “an embarrassment” and said he believed lawmakers were harming the state.

“I took an oath to do no harm. There’s zero chance I can vote for this bill,” Maroney said before the bill passed the Senate 18-12. The House already approved a version of the bill in February and swiftly approved the Senate bill on Saturday, the last day of the state’s 60-day legislative session.

“It’s a bad bill for West Virginia, it’s a step backward. There’s no question, no question there will be negative effects,” Maroney said. He added, “It’s an embarrassment for me to be a part of it, it should be an embarrassment to everybody.”

West Virginia, with some of the lowest life expectancy rates in the U.S. and a quarter of all children living in poverty, is one of only two states, along with California, that don’t permit nonmedical exemptions to vaccinations as a condition for school entry.

THE NEW proposed vaccine law in West Virginia, which now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Jim Justice, allows virtual public school students to be exempt and for private and parochial schools to institute their own policies either exempting students or not.

All students participating in West Virginia school activities that result in competition, including but not limited to sports, still need to be vaccinated.

Former West Virginia Medical Association Dr. Lisa Costello said West Virginia’s current vaccine policy is the “gold standard” across the nation.

“West Virginia is seen as a national leader when it comes to our routine, child immunizations,” she said, later adding, “Measles does not care if you go to private school or public school. Measles does not differentiate depending on where you go to school.”