MONONGALIA COUNTY, W.Va. – House Bill 5105 would allow private and parochial schools to set their own vaccination policies and is waiting for approval from Governor Justice.

Monongalia County Commissioner and retired guidance counselor formerly with Monongalia County Schools for more than 30 years, Tom Bloom, said if the measure becomes law, it will endanger thousands of students and families in this county alone.

“The legislature is turning the clock back nearly 100 years in immunization protection for our children,” Bloom said. “This is a disaster about to happen that will open the door for more diseases.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 60 measles cases so far in 2024. The total is more than the total number of cases reported last and some of the reports are from neighboring states Ohio. Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Immediate Past President of the West Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Vaccinations, Dr. Lisa Costello, said measles is highly contagious and represents one of the most important examples why the state needs to maintain a strong vaccination program.

“Measles doesn’t care if you go to private or parochial schools,” Dr. Costello said. “It does not differentiate, so that’s why it’s important for children to have protection.”

Bloom said he has very clear memories of when communities hoped for a vaccine to free them from the threat of serious illness or death.

“The individuals who are making this decision were not around when my friends and neighbors were in the Iron Lung,” Bloom said. “We are going back to that; we are going backwards.”

As an elected official, safety is an important consideration, but the measure could hurt the county in its efforts to attract and retain companies that provide good jobs.

“I’ve already had a business say if this passes, they may not bring our business or factory here because I don’t want to bring my family members to a state that is loosening vaccination requirements,” Bloom said.

Dr. Costello said there are exceptions, but a strong vaccination program is also designed to keep those covered by the exemption safe as well. Vaccination programs keep the overall presence of the disease in the population low, decreasing the odds of infection for all, including the most vulnerable. She used the example of a young person battling childhood cancer.

“In those conditions, they cannot get immunizations because their body is not going to mount the proper response,” Dr. Costello said. “That’s why having high immunization rates in the community can help protect that child because we can help keep those diseases out.”

Bloom urges local residents to contact the governor with their opposition.