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(NEW YORK) -- The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Monday that will eliminate school vaccine requirements for those who claim religious exemptions, but only for some schools.

Last week, the House began considering the bill, known as HB 5105, which proposed eliminating vaccine requirements for public virtual schools that do not take part in extracurricular activities or sports in public school settings. The bill was then expanded to propose "eliminating the vaccine requirements for students of public virtual schools, private schools, or parochial schools unless the student participates in sanctioned athletic events, and creating a religious exemption from vaccine requirements," and then further amended to specifically allow vaccine exemptions "any child whose parents or guardians present a letter stating that a child cannot be vaccinated for religious reasons."

It's unclear if the religious exemption will apply to students attending in-person public schools.

The bill will now head to the Senate for debate and, if it passes in that chamber, to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice for signing into law.

Prior to this bill, West Virginia had no non-medical vaccine exemptions from school vaccine requirements, either for religious or philosophical beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Currently, children in West Virginia are required to receive at least one dose of vaccine for chickenpox, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, diphtheria, polio, rubella, tetanus, and whooping cough before entering school for the first time in grades K-12. The COVID-19 vaccine is not required to attend school in West Virginia.

If child's parents or guardian cannot afford or cannot access vaccines, county health departments will provide vaccines for the child, according to West Virginia law.

To receive a medical exemption from vaccination, a physician must have treated or examined the child, and an exemption request from the physician must be submitted to the state Immunization Officer of the Bureau for Public Health.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fewer than 0.1% of kindergarten-age students in West Virginia were exempted from vaccines, including measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP); poliovirus (polio); and varicella (chickenpox) for the 2022-23 school year, the lowest exemption rate in the nation.

West Virginia's strict vaccination laws have also helped improve attendance rates for students and staff, according to the state's Department of Education.

Delegate Chris Pritt, a sponsor of the bill and a Republican representing Kanawha County, which includes the state capital of Charleston, said the bill allows medical freedom for West Virginians.

"I spoke in favor of a bill to allow more parents to choose whether to vaccinate. [West Virginia] is at the bottom with medical freedom," he wrote in a post on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter. "Mountaineers will never be free until families are able to make decisions on whether to vaccinate!"

Over the weekend, health officer Dr. Steven Eshenaur of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department wrote an opinion in which he criticized the bill.

"Our forefathers and their families experienced the ravages of measles, mumps, tetanus, polio, and meningitis," he wrote. "Modern medicine has worked diligently to protect our communities through the development and testing of vaccines that have been proven to be safe and effective."

"Now, legislators want to turn the clock back nearly 100 years and remove some of the safeguards in our vaccination policies," Eshenaur continued. "If you are anti-vaccination, you are pro-disease. It's as simple as that."

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