Justice wants vaccine exemptions for private company warrants | News


CHARLESTON — If a proposed amendment passes the West Virginia Legislature, private companies and government entities that require a COVID vaccination for all employees would be required to exempt those who refuse for medical or religious reasons.

“They have to obey the law,” Gov. Jim Justice said during his pandemic briefing Wednesday after introducing the state code amendment for consideration at the current special session that began Monday.

The amendment states that a licensed physician or advanced registered nurse may sign a medical certification after performing an “in-person examination of the employee or prospective employee, indicating that the physical condition of the current employee or potential is such that a COVID-19 vaccination is contraindicated, there is a mandatory vaccine-specific precaution, “or the person has recovered from COVID and has antibodies.

A notarized certification would be required for a religious exemption.

Justice said the federal government already has these exemptions and “we have to be very consistent in all respects when it comes to warrants.”

He said he was against mandates but private companies have the right to demand vaccination. “But they have to allow those exemptions.”

WVU Medicine, with which Princeton Community Hospital is affiliated, recently set an Oct. 31 deadline for all employees to get vaccinated and released a statement on Wednesday opposing Justice’s proposal “in its current form.” .

“We urge the Legislature to press the pause button and work with key stakeholders and employers in West Virginia to ensure this bill does not unintentionally derail their efforts to protect their employees and the general public,” the statement said.

The justice amendment also states that schools cannot force vaccinations on students.

State law and rules already require that all children entering school in West Virginia for the first time in kindergarten through 12th grade must show proof of immunization for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox and hepatitis B, unless properly medically exempt.

But this medical exemption must be “requested by a physician who has treated or examined the child and be reviewed and submitted to the Public Health Bureau’s immunization officer. Requests for exemption must be based on current standards of practice. regarding vaccination and include the following information: the vaccine(s) exempted, the specific medical reason for the exemption, whether the exemption is temporary or permanent and, if temporary, when the exemption should be re-evaluated.West Virginia state law does not allow non-medical exemptions to vaccination requirements.

Asked about the difference between the stringent school vaccine requirements already in place and the COVID vaccine, Justice said the vaccines required in schools are all “a different animal” because they have been in place for decades.

But he went on to say he was supporting and urging people to get vaccinated against COVID.

“I really believe in my heart that they are very, very safe,” he said.

Regarding the Delta variant surge, Justice said the peak appears to have been reached on September 16, when new daily cases reached nearly 2,000, and the number has been gradually declining since then.

Wednesday’s figures showed 1,130 new cases and the number of active cases fell from a peak of nearly 30,000 last month to 9,703.

“It’s showing a peak and it’s showing it’s going down,” he said, but that could change because there’s “no playbook” on what’s going to happen.

Dr Clay Marsh, the state’s COVID-19 czar, said the number of new cases fell “precipitously”, but he warned that the number of people in hospital remained “pretty high”.

As of Wednesday, 829 COVID patients were in public hospitals, including 239 in intensive care and 175 on ventilators. Those numbers are down from last month, but still ahead of January’s highs.

Marsh also said six children are hospitalized with COVID, including three in intensive care and two on ventilators, and he expressed concern about the long-term side effects of the virus on children.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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