Va. Lawmakers Accept Public Comments on School Vaccine Law
Hundreds of Virginians and a handful of medical associations are weighing in on whether to change school vaccine policy.
RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Hundreds of Virginians and a handful of medical associations are weighing in on whether to change school vaccine policy.
A panel of lawmakers is currently reviewing the Virginia law.
The Virginia Department of Health recommends taking no action, meaning the commonwealth would keep current medical and religious exemptions in place.
This review comes after a bill was pulled that would have either eliminated or severely restricted those opt-outs.
“Virginia's exemption rates are low, there's not been an outbreak in Virginia and there's no compelling reason to change the law," said Stephen Weiss, MPA, Senior Health Policy Analyst for the Joint Commission on Health Care.
Wednesday in Richmond, the board learned 674 out of 679 submissions favored keeping the rules as they stand.
Current Virginia law allows parents to opt-out of vaccines for their kids if there are religious or medical concerns.
Supporters of the status quo believe doctors cannot predict who will have a reaction and parents should have the power to decide what's best for their children.
"I had to use a religious exemption after my son reacted to a vaccine. But I did that with a lot of prayer, I did that in consultation with my pastor, and a lot of soul searching," said Kathi Williams, Vice President and Co-Founder of the National Vaccine Information Center.
Kathi Williams and Vicky Pebsworth, Director of Research and Patient Safety for the National Vaccine Information Center, attended Wednesday’s briefing.
They say they were pleased with the outpouring of comments against changing the law.
"Under some of the proposals that had been floated, he [son] and most of the rest of the other children that I know who have medical exemptions would've lost their medical exemptions, and I don't know what we would've done," said Pebsworth.
But critics have argued that vaccines are by and large very safe. Other comments summarized:
"Not vaccinating children puts everybody at risk, and the use of religious exemptions in Virginia has nothing to do with religion," summarized Weiss.
The American Academy of Pediatrics proposed some changes to the law and would support tightening up or doing away with religious exemptions.
The board plans to vote on recommendations for the General Assembly in November. Public comments are still being accepted and can be sent to:
Virginia General Assembly Joint Commission on Health Care at 600 E. Main Street, Room 301 P.O. Box 1322, Richmond, VA 23219. Fax 804-786-5538. or by email to email@example.com
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said public comments are still being accepted for the period. The period ended on September 3rd, however comments are still being accepted and being recorded and we have put the address where you can send comments into the story.