Student Exempt From Vaccinations, for Now

After receiving allergy testing, a local school student has been exempted – at least for now – from receiving a vaccination required by West Virginia state law.

During a regular Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health meeting Tuesday, member Wilkes Kinney asked Administrator Howard Gamble if the matter had been resolved. The child had been kept from attending class for six weeks by the health department because he had not received a vaccine required by law. In West Virginia, the only exception to not receiving a required vaccine is a medical exemption.

The parents said their son had an egg allergy in addition to being deathly allergic to milk. After much debate, the parents eventually agreed to allergy testing related to the vaccine.

“They wanted initially an exemption for an egg allergy for the (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine). … Then they wanted an exemption for milk and the MMR had fetal bovine serum. They felt bovine is related to cow and that would mean he shouldn’t get the shot. We did a lot of research and found that was just not true,” said Health Officer Dr. William Mercer.

The health department suggested a scratch test to determine if the child was allergic to the actual vaccine. The parents chose an out of town facility and the test came back positive, Mercer said.

“I did discuss it with the physician and he felt it was a positive test,” he said. “The physician there said he could still get the vaccine, just in low doses and monitored. The family there still did not want to give it. And after looking at everything and discussing things, we felt OK you do have a positive, we’ll go ahead and give the exemption.”

Mercer noted the child did receive another required vaccine for hepatitis.

Via telephone Tuesday, the child’s mother said her son has had an exemption letter on file from their family doctor since her son was in kindergarten. She noted her son is fully vaccinated with all other required vaccines – it is just the MMR vaccine that still has ingredients dangerous for her son.

“It has stuff in it that would kill him,” she said of the components in the MMR.

However, it was not until they put their son into a new school that the letter became an issue. Health department officials told the mother that only Mercer could approve a medical exemption.

She also noted the exemption granted to her son is only temporary because the health department is going to make them go through the same process next year.

“The West Virginia Bureau of Health’s handbook and the CDC’s Pink Book, which is the health department’s bible, state a child with an allergy to a component of a vaccine or the vaccine itself is exempt,” the mother said of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The health department is not following its own rules.”

She added she is seeking support from various legislators so her family does not have to go through the same long process again next school year.