Virginia State Lawmakers Weigh Forced Immunizations

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Attendees of the vaccine hearing in Richmond Attendees of the vaccine hearing in Richmond

On Wednesday, hundreds of Virginians showed up to the General Assembly Building for a hearing on vaccine requirements and religious freedom. A panel of lawmakers held the meeting to explore the issue of vaccines.

Some parents say their children developed severe illnesses or reactions from vaccines and they want to keep medical and religious exemptions in place. Others say it leaves the community vulnerable to a disease outbreak.

Barbara Loe Fisher, head of the National Vaccine Information Center, received a standing ovation in the General Assembly building for speaking out about forced immunization.

"There are children who are at risk genetically, biologically, for having greater risks associated with vaccines," said Fisher.

She believes her son, Chris, developed a brain injury from a vaccine.

"In 1980, my oldest child suffered a brain inflammation encephalopathy within hours of his fourth DPT shot. He was left with minimal brain injury that required him to be in a self-contained classroom for the learning disabled for the entire 12 years in a special education classroom in Virginia," said Fisher.

A subcommittee of the Joint Commission on Health Care is exploring Virginia’s current law.

Heather Vanderweide came out to the hearing Wednesday. When her daughter, Sophia, was a baby, there was a measles outbreak in Charlottesville.

"I think it's just important that parents consider both sides and sometimes they don't always get the information that they need," said Vanderweide.

She's concerned fewer vaccinations put everyone at risk.

"What I'd like legislators to do is take a look at making the religious exemptions a little bit more difficult to obtain, because I understand that there are people that truly object to vaccination, but I'm afraid that some parents are abusing it," said Vanderweide.

Last session, one lawmaker put forth a bill to take away religious opt-outs and greatly limit medical exemptions.

The deadline to submit public comments is September 3.