Vaccine Injustice in WV

admin September 15, 2012

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I don’t often post news-related pieces, but this strongly bothers me.  There are states in this country where getting a vaccine exemption is difficult or even basically impossible.  West Virginia is one of those states.  It offers only medical exemptions, and these are notoriously difficult to get (the reader who shared this story with me told me a child in total renal failure was denied a medical exemption, despite that his doctor felt it was too dangerous for him to receive vaccines!).

This is completely unacceptable.  It should be up to the parents, in conjunction with a medical professional they trust (who may or may not be an MD) to decide whether or not to vaccinate, on what schedule, etc.  It should not be up to the state to force any medical treatment on any child for any reason.  And yet…that’s exactly what is going on in WV right now.  This story is especially horrifying because the little girl in question actually *is* fully and legally vaccinated, and they are trying to force her to get an extra dose early — which her doctor thinks is dangerous!  It should never happen, and yet, it is.  Read on for the full story (from a reader).

My dear friend, Tiffany, got served a letter Thursday. The letter stated that  if she does not have her daughter back in school, then she will be facing a fine of up to $100 per day her daughter misses school plus jail time of 5 – 25 days after the 10th day of absence.  Tiffany is trying to send her daughter to school. The school won’t let her stay.

Let me back up a bit.

Ryliegh is 5 years old. She is a fully vaccinated kindergartner.   She resides in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. West Virginia, like Mississippi, allows no religious or philosophical exemption and rarely grants medical exemptions.

So, Ryleigh got all  of her state required shots. One mistake was made. Neither Tiffany or her pediatrician knew about a new rule put into place just 15 days prior.  The new rule required the DTaP shot to be given AFTER the 4th birthday. Ryleigh’s shot was before her birthday.

After the two week grace period for all West Virginia students to get caught up on the newly added shots (Tdap and Meningitis for 7th and 12th graders plus meeting all the new requirements for new school entrants), students across the state have been removed from school.  All absences are unexcused and students face truancy.

Seniors are being denied graduation. Parents are being threatened with calls to CPS for medical neglect. Police have been escorting students from campus. Student medical information has been shared freely throughout the schools violating HIPPA rights. Parents face the risk of losing the right to make medical decisions for their children. Misdemeanor charges are being threatened (WV is the only state that criminalizes non- vaccination).

Here are the biggest problems:

  • The new requirements (including the one keeping Ryleigh out of school) were added via interpretive rule rather than legislative rule.
  • Interpretive Rule (IR) is covered under the WV code and their definitions. Its a way to define certain policies as to not bog down the legislature. IR cannot be used if the effect is civil sanctioned or criminal sanctioned. Civil sanction is getting our kids kicked out of school. These vaccines have become mandatory.
  • There is a court case in process to determine the legality of circumventing our elected officials by using Interpretive Rule in this way.
  • WV is unique in that it is illegal to not fully vaccinate your child. You are guilty of a misdemeanor for every missed vaccine. They have yet to charge anyone with a misdemeanor but they are quick to use it as a threat.
  • The DHHR and BOE assured the judge that no child was being kept out of school for non-compliance.
  • 150 students in one county ALONE have been removed from school due to non-compliance.
  • HUNDREDS of students across the state are truant from school thanks to these new rules while being fully compliant with state law.
  • West Virginia constitution does not allow for expulsion based on vaccine non-compliance.

Will Ryleigh get to go back to school? Until this court case plays out, it is unlikely. Her doctor requested a medical exemption.  The FDA states that the maximum safe level of aluminum is 5mcg per kilo of weight.  Just 84mcg would be a toxic dose for little Ryleigh.  Tiffany is in agreement with her doctor that further vaccination at this time is unsafe due to an aluminum level 18 times the toxic level.

A doctor requested a temporary medical exemption based on her dosing schedule. The Wheeling-Ohio county health department and Dr. Mercer denied her request.  Since the state does not agree with Ryleigh’s doctor, Tiffany has two choices – give a duplicate vaccination three years early or homeschool. With the threat of jail time, it looks like homeschooling wins.

Why is it that these children are being turned away? They WANT to be in school. With truancy being such a problem in West Virginia, why refuse to educate such a large portion of students?

It just doesn’t make sense.

We The Parents is a registered non-profit grassroots movement whose aim is to change the vaccine laws in West Virginia.   Changing laws takes a lot of work and is not free. Please consider supporting these families as they fight for their children’s right to a free and appropriate public education. Like their page on facebook. Share the information posted. Consider donating financially. Help Ryleigh get back in school!


If you are as disgusted by this as I am, take action now!  Take your rights back, and demand that you, the parent, should make the decisions for YOUR child!

How do you feel about the state of vaccine exemptions in this country?

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  1. Thank you SO much for sharing our story! West Virginia parents WILL win this fight for our parental rights!


  2. […] In fact, this “law” is only getting worse. Right now in West Virginia, there is a very tragic story taking place with a 5 year old girl named Ryleigh. She is being denied her education because she was told she could not come back to school because she needed a DTaP booster shot. She’s already received all 4 of her boosters shots, she just received the 4th dose too early (over 3 years early) and they are telling the mother she needs another booster because she got the 4th dose too early. Sounds too crazy to be true right? It is complete insanity what is happening. You can read more of her story (HERE). […]


  3. I feel for these people. However, after reading this I will never move there…probably never even visit there.


  4. Thank yo so much for sharing this! Ryleigh really misses school and wants to go back to see her friends and attend Gym class. (Her favorite class)


  5. I have a question. The vaccine schedule for dtap is as follows: three doses in the first year, the 4th dose between 15 and 18 mos, and the 5th dose at about 4 to 6 years. So, even if this girl did get the 4th dose before her 4th birthday, she is still not up-to-date with her immunizations. She still needs the FIFTH dose to be fully immunized. It is strange, to me, that the doctor would not know this and the mother would not realize that this is the case. Unless all the media about this case should really be saying she got her FIFTH dose to early.


  6. I highly recommend looking into supporting the Parental Rights Amendment ( as well.


  7. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am a homeschool mom in WV and I am very concerned about the way parental rights are being taken away in this regard!


  8. I wanted to give an update. A lot has happened since this post ran. Ryleigh’s case was heard. The judge found that she has a fundamental right to an education. She has been granted homebound instruction (paid for by the school) pending the larger case regarding the legality of “interperative rule.” Two other very similar cases were heard with the same ruling. Well, the BIG case got a ruling just about a week ago. Even though three county judges (all different counties) ruled in favor of the right to an education, this judge ruled that DHHR had the right to give themselves (as appointed – NOT elected bureaucrats) the power to make laws about requirements medical procedures done to our children. We are hoping to appeal this decision, but we are struggling to raise the funds needed in the two-week time period required (so the attorney has time to prepare). WV is a mess. If anyone would like to contribute to our cause, all funds will go directly to our legal battle.


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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