CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Department of Health and Human Resources is being sued by six families who claim the agency cannot impose new vaccine requirements for schoolchildren.
The lawsuit, recently filed with the state Supreme Court, claims the DHHR overstepped its authority.
Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, incoming seventh-graders in West Virginia will be required to show proof they have received one dose of vaccines against meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Incoming 12th-graders must show proof they received booster doses after age 16.
Those who are not vaccinated before or shortly after the school year begins cannot attend school.
Patrick Lane, a Republican member of the House of Delegates from Kanawha County, said the families' attorney, said the state code requires children entering school for the first time to be immunized against diphtheria, polio, rubeola, rubella, tetanus and whooping cough. He said the DHHR cannot require additional vaccines without the Legislature's approval.
"I guess, on their own initiative, the agency has attempted to bypass the Legislature and, in our view, illegally add these other compulsory immunization requirements," Lane told the Charleston Daily Mail. "And the rest of that is if parents do not comply with these additional requirements -- the five additional -- then their child cannot go to school in West Virginia."
A call to the DHHR's communications office on Friday was not returned.
Lane said the Legislature had previously declined to add vaccines to the state's mandated vaccine list.
The Department of Education is working to inform parents about the new requirement, spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said.
She said the department believes the vaccine requirement is a good thing but that it was DHHR's rule, not the education agency's.