West Virginia

Department of
Health & Human Resources

DHHR, Education Oppose Weakening of State’s Immunization Laws


The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia Department of Education support Senate Bill 286 which firms up the state’s current immunization law, but oppose proposed House amendments.
“We appreciate working with our partners in the West Virginia State Senate to ensure that children are protected against serious vaccine-preventable diseases.  We strongly oppose the House amendments and consider them unacceptable,” DHHR Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling said.  “In 2013, America’s Health Ranking ranked West Virginia as #1 in the nation for its low incidence of infectious diseases. Immunization protects not only the child but their family, neighbors and the entire community from diseases which are easily and safely preventable.”
West Virginia’s ranking as #1 in the nation for its low incidence of infectious diseases is attributable to the state’s strong immunization laws.  West Virginia currently has some the best kindergarten immunization rates in the nation, preventing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in its school and communities.  This allows for protection to medically fragile students and staff, along with pregnant women, younger siblings and elderly family members.  Adolescent vaccination rates have more than doubled since the rule was enacted in 2012, moving 7th and 12th students to a 99% vaccination rate with diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (Tdap) and meningitis vaccines.
“In order to support regular school attendance, ensure reading at grade-level, prevent added cost to education and healthcare, and assist each student in graduating and being college and career ready, we must continue leading the nation in the lowest incidence of infectious diseases by supporting our current laws,” said Michael Martirano, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools. “West Virginia has very high rates of immunization levels of school aged children due to its policy on immunization requirements.  Our immunization laws protect children and school staff who are unable to be vaccinated due to underlying medical conditions and allergies to vaccine components. Any change in state law would force our education system backwards countless years.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 173 people in 17 states and the District of Columbia have become infected with measles since January 1, 2015 as a result of one outbreak in California.
“West Virginia’s current medical exemption process is science and evidence-based and is supported by guidance from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner for DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.  “The recent measles outbreak linked to Disneyland is a classic example of diseases that are easily preventable.  A national review of sixteen measles outbreaks in the United States in 2011 found that, overall, the total economic burden on local and state public health institutions that dealt with measles outbreaks ranged from an estimated $2.7 million to $5.3 million. Attempts to fix a system that is not broken by making costly changes will affect individuals, families and society, and further has the potential to negatively impact our economy.”

Contact Information

Liza Cordeiro, Dept of Education, lcordeir@k12.wv.us OR Allison Adler, DHHR, allison.c.adler@wv.gov