Ashton Marra Published

Senate Health Panel Moves Vaccine Bill


A Senate committee approved an agreement Thursday that would modify the way immunization exemptions are granted in West Virginia, taking the power from the county level and centralizing it at the state Bureau for Public Health.

Members of the Senate Health Committee initially received a bill that would have allowed parents to seek religious exemptions from some immunization requirements. A committee substitute offered last week removed that exemption, but members still had concerns and asked for more time to work on a compromised version.

The committee substitute now requires a family doctor provide the Bureau for Public Health with a request for a medical exemption. The request would then be reviewed by a new chief immunization officer within the state Bureau.

The bill also sets up an appeals process for parents who disagree with the immunization officer’s decision. It can first be appealed to the Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health and then to a state court.

“This is obviously a good attempt in ensuring that the issue of inconsistencies are addressed while keeping the strong immunization policies intact,” Dr. Rahul Gupta, Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health and the state’s chief health officer, told the committee, “and I think that’s a really good step forward.”

The bill was approved unanimously by the committee and now goes to Senate Judiciary for further consideration.