Wheeling-Ohio County Health Board: Keep Vaccine Standards

The Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health on Tuesday endorsed continuation of the state’s requirements for childhood immunization against communicable diseases.

The board voted unanimously to reaffirm its previous resolution and position that immunizations be required for school-age children. In agreement were board president Dr. John Holloway and board members Laura Chapman, Terry Sterling and Thomas Tuttle. Board member Chad Thalman was absent; the sixth seat is vacant.

Holloway urged adoption of the measure as a pre-emptive strike against any potential legislative action to weaken current requirements for childhood immunization. Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble said a former state legislator introduced a bill regarding vaccine exemptions prior to the 2019 legislative session, but no other bills have been proposed.

West Virginia law requires children entering pre-kindergarten to have had vaccines for hepatitis B; diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis; varicella (chickenpox); inactivated polio virus; and measles, mumps and rubella. All incoming seventh- and 12th-grade students in West Virginia public and private schools must have proof that they have had age-appropriate Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis or whooping cough) and meningitis shots.

Gamble said requests for exemptions now are made to a state immunization exemption officer. Previously, county health officers handled those requests, he said.

From a public health standpoint, loosening immunization requirements for West Virginia children would be “a terrible thing to do,” Holloway said. “They’re not benign diseases. There can be disastrous outcomes.”

Dr. William Mercer, county health officer, endorsed the board’s action.

In other matters, Holloway said the Ohio County Commission has to appoint a board member to replace Christian Turak, who has moved out of the county. He said the new member must reside in Ohio County and be a Democrat, Independent or Mountain Party member.

Gamble said the health department and the Ohio County Emergency Management Agency received a $16,000 grant from the Fitzsimmons Foundation to purchase 30 bleeding control kits that will be placed in all schools, West Virginia Northern Community College, West Liberty University, Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling Island Stadium and the Capitol Theatre.

The “Stop the Bleed” kits are designed for handling mass casualty wounds. Gamble said each unit contains eight individual bleeding control kits. “We hope to never have to use it,” he added.

Meanwhile, Gamble said the Community Impact Coalition has given the health department more than 100 Deterra Drug Deactivation System kits for disposal of unwanted prescription drugs. The free kits can be obtained at the health department from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

A person can place leftover pills, patches or liquid drugs in the kit, which contains charcoal. When warm water is added to the pouch, the drug solidifies and becomes unusable. The pouch then can be thrown out with household trash, he said.

Gamble said the department also received a grant from Evzio, a drug firm, for 200 kits to dispense naxolone through an auto injector. The kits will be available to people who undergo training to administer naxolone to reverse an opioid overdose.

“It’s a little grant that helps us with our program of Narcan education and going out to the community,” he said. “It’s a nice little addition to the department.”

The health department also provides Narcan in the form of a nasal spray, but those supplies are beginning to expire, he said.

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