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W. Va. mom loses appeal over child immunization

RICHMOND, Va. — A lawyer for a West Virginia woman who unsuccessfully challenged the state’s child immunization law said Tuesday she will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

“We’re going to push this appeal as far as we can,” said Patricia Finn, who represents Jennifer Workman in a lawsuit against state and Mingo County health and education officials.

Workman claims the state’s immunization mandate for all public school children conflicts with her religious belief that a child must not be injected with any potentially harmful substance. Her first child developed autism around the time she was immunized, and Workman feared the same would happen to her younger child.

She sued after Lenore Pre-K to 8 School refused to admit her daughter without the vaccinations against childhood diseases. U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin dismissed the lawsuit last year, saying there is little evidence that standard vaccinations are not safe.

Finn said she was disappointed that a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week unanimously affirmed Goodwin’s decision. The panel said in its ruling that the Supreme Court has consistently held that states can require the vaccinations without providing any religious exemption.

“Although we respect the court’s opinion, it’s very, very troubling,” Finn said.

She said the court did not require any proof that immunizations are effective. But even if they are, she said, “to make someone do it when they have religious objections is outrageous.”

Joanna Tabit of Charleston, a lawyer for the Mingo County schools, said she was pleased with the appeals court’s ruling.

“We’re on the forefront of these public health issues,” she said. “These statutes are designed to protect the public health and welfare while respecting individual rights.”

The West Virginia law allows an exemption if a parent presents a certificate from a reputable physician showing immunization “is impossible or improper or other sufficient reason why such immunizations have not been done.” Workman submitted such a certificate from a child psychiatrist, but it was rejected by school and state health officials.

Workman still lives in West Virginia but sends her daughter to school in Kentucky, which allows a religious exemption for immunizations.

One comment

  1. No one is saying she has to vaccinate her child. She only has to if she wants her to attend public school. She can home school her child or continue to send her to school in Kentucky if she does not want to have her vaccinated.
    From the NY Times “Some people believe that the small amount of mercury (called thimerosal) that is a common preservative in multidose vaccines causes autism or ADHD…. All of the routine childhood vaccines are available in single-dose forms that do not contain added mercury.”
    I think parents of children who are not vaccinated should be required to disclose that fact to any organization their child will be a part of, any caregiver they hire, and/or daycare center, so that they can decide if they want to run the (small) risk of this child endangering their health.