Parents Fighting For Right To Say 'No' To Vaccinating Kids - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Parents Fighting For Right To Say 'No' To Vaccinating Kids

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"I've been a nurse for ten years, and I never really had any concerns about vaccinations," says Heather Stafford, of New Cumberland West Virginia. "I thought everything would be safe and fine."

Heather has two young sons who have had severe adverse reactions to vaccinations.  Both Hunter and Triston no longer receive vaccinations due to medical exemptions

"They describe it as Encephalopathy of the brain. There is permanent damage there," she says.

Medical exemptions are the only way a child can be excused from receiving certain vaccinations that are required to attend school in West Virginia.

"It works well because it's based on medicine," says Howard Gamble, MPH, Administrator with the Wheeling Ohio County Health Department.

Howard says he believes it does keep down the rate of disease in West Virginia and in Ohio County.

"If you allow non-medical exemptions, we do think, based on what has happened in other states, that you would see in increase in disease," says Gamble.

To be medically exempt, a child's physician would have to recommend the exemption to the County Health Officer, who then approves or disapproves the request.

Claudia Raymer was notified in early February that her son's medical exemption was not approved.

"I received a letter from the Marshall County Health Department, saying that their Health Officer had reviewed my sons letter of exemption written by the immunization department at Pittsburgh Children's Hospital," says Raymer. "they didn't find it significant enough reason for him to not be vaccinated with the D-Tap vaccine and that he would have to leave school."

Claudia's 5-year-old son Alex has an underlying condition that can be triggered by certain vaccinations and cause his kidney's to fail.

Alex is someone 7News viewers might recognize. Back in October he spent a very special day at Channel 7 being a broadcaster for the day.

Alex isn't the only child being put in this difficult situation.

Chrisjiana Svede's sons are no longer allowed in school either.

"My children shouldn't be guinea pigs," says Svede. "I feel like no one has really tested the long term reactions to vaccinations."

Heather, Claudia and Chrisjiana are just three of about 150 members in a group called "We The Parents". They've taken their fight to Charleston, pushing to pass Senate Bill 50 and allow philosophical and religious exemptions to vaccinations.

"We want choice, everybody does, and we want safety," says Stafford. "If it passes, we'll all be very happy."

It's become a movement gaining momentum, not just in West Virginia, but across the nation.

John Grindley,  a lobbyist who's also been spear-heading the efforts, is heading a group called West Virginians for Vaccination Exemption.

Grindley also created a video called "Follow The Money", which gives a brief background of how West Virginia has 'sold out' to the Drug Companies.

But why all the controversy surrounding vaccinations that are developed to protect our children from disease?

"All have a potential side effect," says Gamble. "They all also have a potential to fail. It's just a way to attempt to control the amount of disease that is spread."

But the controversy reaches further, into many people's religious beliefs.

"some vaccines are controversial, such as the chicken pox or vericella vaccine that they have wanted to mandate is cultured on aborted fetal cells," says Grindley. "In the vaccine is DNA and protein from an abortion."

Whether it's based on a religious or philosophical beliefs, these parent's just want to have the same right as parents in 48 other states have.

The controversy doesn't end there. Some believe the way the Health Department is mandating vaccinations is violating our constitutional rights.

On February 6th, local attorney's from Harris Law Offices filed suit in front of Judge Irene Keeley in Clarksburg, asking for this to be ruled unconstitutional."

In 2004 and 2005,  the Health Department went to the state representatives and asked to have more immunizations required under statutory code. They were denied both times

"West Virginia code requires six immunizations for children, mandatory to attend school," says Shawn Fluharty, of Harris Law Offices. "The Health Department has bypassed the State Legislature and said 'we need you to have upwards to nine'."

Which leaves many asking, how did they do that?

"They have been using a thing called interpretive rule," says Grindley.

By bypassing that process, Fluharty says "they're really going at the heart of democracy."

Right now, to attend public or private school in the state of West Virginia, a child will have to receive nine vaccinations while in pre-school, and then six shots for ten different diseases between kindergarten and 12th grade.

A new "interpretive rule" is in effect for next year, that will add three more vaccines for kids in 7th through 12th grade.

Senate Bill 50 was sent to the education committee for approval, if it passes it will then move to the judiciary committee before the senate votes on it.

Senator Ron Stollings, a member of the education committee and a medical doctor, is working on a study resolution that he and other senators plan to introduce in the Education Committee. The study would last a year and show both sides of the vaccination issue in hopes of ending the issue in the state.