Gov. Justice vetoes vaccine exemption bill, citing medical experts

Gov. Jim Justice

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – West Virginia’s regular legislative session has officially come to a close. The last day could prove to be one of the most controversial out of the entire session.

According to his office, Governor Jim Justice has acted on all of the bills passed by the legislature. However, the director of communications for the West Virginia Senate said that there are two bills that were not acted upon.

Those bills will become law tonight without the governor’s signature. In total, 279 bills completed the legislative process.

The day was capped off by the governor’s announcement that he would veto the bill that would have exempted students at private and parochial schools.

Students enrolled in virtual public school would have also been exempted.

The governor said he heard strong opposition from the West Virginia medical community. He wants to avoid the spikes in illnesses that other states in the region have experienced.

“The overwhelming majority that have voiced their opinion believe that this legislation will do irreparable harm by crippling childhood immunity to diseases such as mumps and measles,” Justice said in a statement. “West Virginia historically has seen very few instances of these diseases, specifically because the vaccination requirements in this State are so strong. Importantly, the vaccines at issue have been required in this State for decades and have kept our communities safe.”

Further, Justice said that he heard from private and parochial schools who asked that he veto the bill. He said some schools worried that the bill would make parents pull their children from schools out of fear of changing vaccination policy.

Justice said he prioritizes “freedoms” but acknowledged the need to defer to medical experts.

“West Virginia is way ahead of the pack in protecting our children from preventable diseases like the measles, and in this matter, I will defer to our licensed medical professionals who have come forward overwhelmingly to say this bill could and likely would result in reduced immunity and harm to West Virginia’s kids,” Justice said. “Our kids are our future. They are our most important resource, and I will protect them with everything I have.”

The bill passed the House 57-41 and the Senate 20-12. It was divisive for legislators from the WOAY viewing area.

In the Senate, Vince Deeds, Rollan Roberts, Mark Maynard, and Chandler Swope voted to approve the bill.

Jack Woodrum and David Stover voted against the bill.

It was equally controversial for local delegates.

Delegates Tom Fast, Elliott Pritt, Todd Longanacre, Eric Brooks, Todd Kirby, Brandon Steele, Jordan Maynor, Roy Cooper, Marty Gearheart, and Adam Vance voted for the bill.

Heather Tully, Jeff Campbell, Christopher Toney, Doug Smith, Joe Ellington, and David Green voted against the bill.

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