Bill mandating vaccines for all Virginia school children raises concerns

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Lawmakers and other supporters point out the bill would not infringe upon exemptions for immunization on Virginia law. Some of those exemptions include religion or documented proof it may be detrimental to a student’s health.

A bill that has already cleared the House would require every vaccine on the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended list to be mandated for Virginia school children. Some argue Virginia is behind and out of line with the CDC’s recommendations for vaccines while others raise serious concerns about handing the state’s power to decide what’s best for Virginia kids over to a federal agency.

Dozens of parents and some health professionals gathered at the General Assembly to make their voices heard, some holding signs that read: “Keeping my child safe, my choice.”

“We are not crazy anti-vaxxers. We just really want the state legislature to have to power to make our mandate,” explained Marsha Lessard.

The proposed bill could mean 13 additional vaccines against eight diseases for every child in the commonwealth. Under the measure every vaccine on the CDC’s recommended list, except the flu shot, would be automatically required of Virginia school kids. A doctor with the American Academy of Pediatrics told lawmakers at a recent hearing that “vaccinations not only protects the individual receiving the vaccination but those around them.”

The sponsor of the bill Delegate Patrick Hope says the measure would prevent state lawmakers from having to run to the General Assembly for approval every time the CDC comes out with a new recommended vaccine. He added, “Vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for children.”

Opponents worry about the CDC’s close ties to big pharma. Lessard’s son suffered a vaccine injury.

“My son had a neurological reaction to a vaccine, it stole his words, it stole his life,” Lessard told 8News.

While the CDC says the risk of a vaccine injury is extremely low, a previous 8News investigation found there is a federally funded program that pays out when vaccines go wrong and claims are on the rise. Wendy Albright told 8News she left nursing after what she saw in the pediatric ER.

“I had children come in straight from the pediatricians office from seizures right after the vaccines,” said Albright.

Mary Holland with The Children’s Health Defense, an organization aimed at ending the epidemic of children’s chronic health conditions wrote an op-ed raising concerns about the bill. Among her concerns she writes, “54% of American children have serious chronic health conditions, including ADD and ADHD, autism, asthma, allergies, arthritis, diabetes, learning disabilities and more.”

Additionally, Dr. Elizabeth Mumper who was once chief resident of pediatrics at UVA wrote to 8News, “I am concerned about the long-term health effects of multiple vaccines given at once to our children. ” She says vaccines can have side effects and worries about a one size fits all approach. Mumper believes each individual patient’s health needs to be considered.

Still, other health professionals including the CDC argue some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children have been eliminated thanks to vaccines. Lawmakers and other supporters also point out the bill would not infringe upon exemptions for immunization on Virginia law. Some of those exemptions include religion or documented proof it may be detrimental to a student’s health.

The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the bill Wednesday.

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