CHARLESTON (AP) — The West Virginia Board of Education is supporting new schoolchildren vaccine requirements imposed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
The board says it has filed a friend of the court brief backing the requirements in a court case that challenges their legality.
Incoming seventh-graders in West Virginia are required to show proof they have received one dose of vaccines against meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Incoming 12th-graders must show proof they received booster doses after age 16.
Those who are not vaccinated before or shortly after the school year begins cannot attend school.
The vaccinations are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Board members approved a resolution on Wednesday endorsing the CDC’s recommendations.
“Immunizations are a vital part of public health and help make sure our students are free from preventable communicable diseases,” state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple said in a news release. “We must take every step we can to keep our children as safe and healthy as possible, and immunizations are essential. A healthy child is one who is in school and can learn.”
Six families sued the DHHR earlier this year, claiming the agency does not have the authority to impose new vaccine requirements for school children. The lawsuit was filed with the Supreme Court.
Delegate Patrick Lane, the families’ attorney, has said the state code requires children entering school for the first time to be immunized against diphtheria, polio, rubeola, rubella, tetanus and whooping cough. He said the DHHR cannot require additional vaccines without the Legislature’s approval.