Across the States
Vaccine Equity Bill Speeds Toward Enactment
On March 9, Governor Bob McDonnell signed what we believe is the nation’s first law requiring a state department of health to give homeschool students equal access to a vaccine during an epidemic emergency.
As the H1N1 flu swept the globe last fall, some Virginia homeschool parents were told, “I’m sorry we can’t give your child a vaccination. We are saving it for public school children.” Even private school children were pushed to the back of the line.
State Delegate David L. Englin’s family participated on a soccer team that included private school children. The parents of these children reported the same message to him: public school children were getting the vaccine while others were being turned down.
Delegate Englin filed Virginia House Bill 270 to redress the issue. While the original text of H.B. 270 required the state department of health to have a plan to vaccinate all children regardless of their education during a public health emergency, it did not require that all groups be treated equally, thus allowing continued discrimination among groups of children.
Upon reading this initial language, Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff promptly communicated with Delegate Englin’s office. After much discussion, the delegate accepted Woodruff’s proposal to amend H.B. 270 to forbid the department from giving preference to children in public school over children in a homeschool or private school. Thus amended, the bill breezed out of subcommittee, moved through house committee without a snag, and proceeded to near-unanimous approval in the full house and unanimous approval in the senate.
Some parents prefer to limit the vaccinations their children receive, or omit them altogether. These parents are protected under H.B. 270 because the bill does not diminish a parent’s right to turn down a child’s vaccination. But for the parents who believe that vaccination is desirable, H.B. 270 gives reason to hope that the disgraceful discrimination of the past will not be repeated.
— by Scott A. Woodruff