Parents Push For Vaccine Waivers

Some local parents are pushing a bill before the West Virginia Legislature that would give physicians the authority to write waivers for school children excusing them from mandated immunizations.

The children typically have physical ailments that are adversely affected by the immunizations, explained Claudia Raymer – both the executive director at Ohio County Family Resource Network, and the mother of a young son with a rare medical condition.

County health officers currently have the authority to grant the waivers, and often these exemptions are hard to receive, according to Raymer.

A bill has been introduced by Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, but is stalled before the House Health and Human Resources Committee.

The measure would allow a parent or guardian of a child entering a school in this state for the first time to request a medical exemption from a licensed physician when such vaccinations are medically impossible or improper,

The waiver also must indicate whether the exemption is permanent or temporary, and to which vaccinations the child is to be exempt.

Required immunizations typically include those for diphtheria, polio, measles, mumps, tetanus and whooping cough.

The bill has 10 co-sponsors, including local delegates Erikka Storch, R-Ohio; Phil Diserio, D-Brooke; and Mike Ferro, D-Marshall; as well as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison; Jeff Eldridge, D-Lincoln; Ron Fragale, D-Harrison; Clif Moore, D-McDowell; Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan; Joe Ellington, R-Mercer; and Eric Householder, R-Berkeley.

Raymer explained her son is inflicted with a rare auto-immune problem called Henoch-Schonlein purpura. The infliction can cause joint pain and kidney damage, she explained, and vaccinations can trigger adverse reactions.

She said she continued to have him vaccinated after the diagnosis, but his reactions to the immunizations led him to be hospitalized at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.

Two doctors at the facility informed Raymer he should not have any more vaccinations, and wrote her waivers excusing him from school requirements.

These waivers, however, weren’t accepted in Marshall County, according to Raymer, because her son’s ailment isn’t specifically among those on a list of reasons for granting exemptions.

“There’s nothing controversial about the bill – it contains no religious exemption,” she explained. “We are just seeking to reverse a measure instituted in 2011 – an interpretative rule from the Department Health and Human Resources – that took the power away from physicians. You now have to request these exemptions (from the county health officer), and these are routinely denied all over the state.”