By Barbara Loe Fisher and Carolyn Hendler, JD
Virginia Legislature Gives CDC, Board of Health Power to Mandate Vaccines for School Children
In the 2020 Legislative session, the Virginia Legislature passed H.B.1090, a bill that amended a law requiring children attending public and private schools in the state to receive vaccines (§ 32.1-46. Immunization of patients against certain diseases).1 Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) was the lead sponsor of H.B. 1090 introduced on Jan. 8, 2020, which proposed to automatically mandate that children enrolled in daycare or school receive all current and future vaccines recommended by the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
The final bill, passed by the Senate in March, granted Governor-appointed members of the Virginia Board of Health the authority to add federally recommended vaccines to the schedule required for school attendance with the exception of the annual influenza vaccination. The bill included an exemption from the requirements of Article 2 of the Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4006 et seq. of the Code of Virginia), effectively blocking Virginia citizens and elected legislators from participating in the decision-making process that creates new vaccine mandates for children.
Abdicating Responsibility & Accountability: Eliminating Voters from the Vaccine Law Making Process
Under the U.S. Constitution, duly elected representatives in state legislatures have authority for making public health laws for state residents. In handing the power to make vaccine laws to unelected members of a federal advisory committee and state Board of Health, the Virginia legislature has abdicated responsibility and accountability to constituents by cutting out elected representatives and the voters who elected them from the vaccine law making process.2 Although the new law provides for a 60-day public comment period after the Board of Health issues a Notice of Intended Regulatory Action to add a new vaccine to the required list for daycare and school attendance, the legislature will never again hold a public hearing where citizens can testify for or against the addition of a new vaccine mandate for children.
Under the new law, the state Board of Health composed of physicians and representatives of medical trade and pharmaceutical-related associations like the Medical Society of Virginia, Virginia Pharmacists Association, Virginia Nurses’ Association,3 4 are expected to endorse vaccine use recommendations issued by members of the ACIP appointed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new law automatically adds up to 10 more doses of five vaccines for daycare and school children, including vaccines that the Virginia legislature previously voted against adding to the schedule, such as the very expensive meningococcal vaccine and HPV vaccine for boys.5
H.B. 1090, as amended, was passed during a special session held by the state legislature on Apr. 22, 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, MD signed the bill into law with an effective date of July 1, 2021.6
Strong Public Opposition in Legislative Committee Hearings
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