Ferns: Vaccine Waiver Bill Dies in Committee

The issue of giving physicians the authority to write waivers for school children excusing them from mandated immunizations has died in the West Virginia Legislature.

The matter was the subject of much discussion during a three-hour meeting of the House Health Committee on Wednesday, according to Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio.

At the end of the meeting, members voted 23-1 to reject a measure that would have codified current policy of the Department of Health and Human Resources. That policy places the decision to grant student immunization waivers with county health officers.

Ferns had introduced a separate bill, House Bill 2831, which would have instead allowed licensed physicians to write the waivers for students when vaccinations “are medically impossible or improper.” It is believed this bill will not be addressed.

“What happened was (Health Committee Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne) refused to put the bill I introduced on the agenda,” Ferns said. “He put another bill that he believed was a compromise on the agenda. I offered a strike and insert amendment that struck everything in his bill and inserted all the language from HB 2831. He ruled it was not germane to the bill. (Delegate Patrick Lane, D-Kanawha) challenged the chair’s position, and it was a 12-12 tie vote so the motion failed.”

Lane then offered his own amendment to the bill providing for physician waivers, but this also was rejected.

“I was extremely frustrated that I could not convince the chairman of the Health Committee to place (HB 2831) on the agenda,” Ferns said. “Based on my direct one on one conversations with committee members, 19 of the 24 committee members supported HB 2831. There was no reason not to put it on the agenda.”

He added there are not many students who require a medical exemption.

But for those who need them and are denied the waiver, their only option is home school or to move to another state.