Legislature passes weakening of childhood vaccination requirements on last day of session, Maroney calls move an ’embarrassment’

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The 2024 legislative session may have come to an end on Saturday, but the final day was not without contention. One of the day’s more hotly contested bills, HB 5105, has been a thorn in the side of detractors since its introduction this past January.

As explained in the Senate Chamber by Health Committee Chair Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, the bill, “Permits private and parochial schools to elect, in writing, to develop a policy that exempts [them] from the current vaccine requirements.”

“The bill provides that there is no cause of action against any […] administrator, board, operator, or owner of a private or parochial school who maintains compliance with the mandatory vaccine requirements,” Maroney continued. “There’s no cause of action for a private or parochial school that chooses to adopt a policy of exemption […] provided the school provides, upon enrollment, an annually thereafter, in writing to all parents […] a notice of their election […] and receive a copy of their signed acknowledgement.”

A copy of the parent’s signed acknowledgement, Maroney added, must be kept on file at the school. Maroney noted that any student participating in W.Va. SSAC-sanctioned activities must comply with all vaccination requirements, and further explained that the bill exempts virtual public school students from any such requirements. 

“I personally do not urge passage, but [the] Health Committee urged passage of this bill,” Maroney said. 

Rising in opposition of the bill was Senate Minority Leader Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, who said, “We could entitle this bill the ‘Make Polio Great Again Act of 2024.’”

“We’ve had these vaccinations for children for 60 years,” Woelfel continued. “The irony of this bill is the parents that want religious freedom. I respect that. But on the other hand, their own innocent, healthy, vulnerable children may pay the price by suffering severe injury or death – death!”

At the conclusion of Woelfel’s remarks, Maroney rose again to explain his opposition to the bill. 

“Vaccines are a victim of their own success,” Maroney said. “We go from tens-of-millions dying every year in the world, to 700,000 is where we’re at today with preventable deaths because of vaccines. The generation now that’s promoting this type of legislation, they didn’t have to be the moms that were scared to death of where their kids went or who their kids played with.”

“Vaccines are their own worst enemy – they’ve been too good,” Maroney continued. “We come closer to losing herd-immunity every day when you see these people crossing our border. […] No matter who’s coming across, do you really think they’re stopping to get their polio vaccine?”

Maroney explained numerous prenatal risks associated with a lack of vaccinations, further noting that it was those risks which, in part, led to abortions being legalized in the United States.

“There’s not one person sitting in this room right this minute that knows more about this topic than I do, even though you think you do,” Maroney said. “I’m not arrogant, I’m truthful. This is a bad bill for West Virginia. It’s a step backwards. There is no question there will be negative effects to families, to children, and immuno-compromised adults.”

According to Maroney, the bill also creates the potential for significant financial concern.

“When you add people who choose to not get vaccines to our insurance pool, we all get to pay higher insurance rates,” Maroney said. “What we;re about to do to the kids and adults of West Virginia, it’s an embarrassment for me to be a part of it, and it should be an embarrassment for everybody.”

Despite Maroney’s warning, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 18 to 12. Several hours later, it passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 70 to 29, thus completing legislative action. HB 5105 will now be reported to Gov. Jim Justice for his approval.

RealWV will provide updates as to the governor’s potential signing of the bill as additional information is made available. 

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