Emily Rice Published

Commissioner Carper Calls For Vaccine Bill Veto

A physician administers a shot into a woman's arm in a hospital setting.PhotoAlto/Michele Constantini

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper announced in a press release Tuesday he supports a veto of House Bill 5105.

House Bill 5105 would allow virtual public school students to be exempt from vaccination policies and for private and parochial schools to institute their own policies either exempting students or not.

As the law stands, all students in West Virginia have to receive vaccines for diseases like polio and measles, unless they are homeschooled or medically exempt.

“I understand the importance of Gov. Justice taking his time to review this bill in its entirety before making his final decision,” Carper said in a press release. “By vetoing this bill, the governor will take a strong stance to show the importance of protecting our vulnerable populations, including young children and seniors.”

Carper’s release joins that of Dr. Steven Eschenaur, the Kanawha-Charleston health officer, who published a statement on March 11, asking Justice to veto the bill.

“As a Public Health Officer, experienced emergency room physician and veteran, I have seen first-hand the ravages of the diseases West Virginia’s current childhood immunization laws protect against,” Eschenaur stated. “I am deeply worried about the consequences on public health with the passage of HB 5105. By allowing philosophical exemptions to the law, we are weakening the public’s ability to prevent measles, mumps, tetanus, meningitis and polio.”

Carper also encouraged other current elected officials and those running for office in the state to support the veto of the bill.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and its West Virginia chapter sent a letter to Gov. Jim Justice on March 14, urging him to veto the bill.

“As we continue to experience the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic and its impact on children’s health, we need strong policies that support our public health systems to fight diseases. West Virginia HB 5105 would remove certain schools from West Virginia’s school-entry immunization requirements under existing statute. AAP policy cautions states against expanding nonmedical exemptions for childhood immunizations to protect children where they learn and in the greater community where they live.”

According to the West Virginia Legislature website, while the legislature is in session, the governor has five days to approve or veto a bill. After the legislature adjourns, the governor has 15 days to act on most bills. If the governor does not act within these time limits, bills automatically become law without his or her signature.

Justice has until Wednesday, March 26 to veto or approve House Bill 5105 or allow it to become law without his signature.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Marshall Health.