Dr. Maurice A. Mufson: Legislature must hold firm on vaccination rules

February 17, 2019
Courtesy of Marshall University Maurice Mufson, M.D., (left) and Ronald Stanek, M.S., have been research partners for 25 years at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

I support strongly the current West Virginia code of compulsory vaccines for all children born and living in West Virginia, except if their physician provides a request for exception to one or more vaccines because of a medical condition of the child. I oppose vigorously any loosening of the code.

Many state legislatures by law allow parents to refuse one or more vaccines for their children. This places their children at risk of contracting serious and otherwise preventable diseases, such as measles.

Currently, Washington State has an extensive outbreak of measles, which also spread to Oregon. Public health personnel in those states documented that nearly all children who contracted measles in this outbreak had not been immunized with measles vaccine. The other children had unknown vaccination status.

During the past decade, a number of widespread measles outbreaks occurred in several states, including New Jersey and New York (2018), Minnesota (2017), California (2015), Ohio (2014) North Carolina and Texas (2013). These outbreaks occurred among mainly unvaccinated persons. However, no outbreaks occurred in West Virginia.

As an infectious diseases physician, I know that measles is a very serious disease and made sure my children were vaccinated. Deaths from measles illness now occur infrequently, about 1 death in 1,000 infected children in developed countries. In rare instances, that would mean that unvaccinated children could die from measles.

The West Virginia Legislature by its authority to pass laws that specify the WV code of vaccine administration accepts the role of guardians of the children of West Virginia families. The current code protects all children from acquiring vaccine preventable diseases.

If the Legislature acts to change this code so that parents can opt out of one or more vaccines, the Legislature will turn its back on the health of West Virginia children. I urge the Legislature to keep unchanged the current code of compulsory vaccines for all children for the well-being of West Virginia children.

Dr. Maurice A. Mufson is an infectious diseases physician and emeritus professor of medicine at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

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