Among the speakers for the rally was Patricia Finn, a New York attorney who represented Jennifer Workman. Workman, a Mingo County woman, sued to keep her child from being immunized. Late last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear her case, letting stand a previous ruling from U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin that said the girl should be immunized before going to school.
Advocates for vaccinations say the higher the percentage of vaccinated students the less likely a school is for outbreaks of illnesses. Vaccinating the majority protects those who may have medical reasons not to have vaccinations, advocates have said. They also argue that there is no connection between vaccinations and autism. A British medical study linking autism to vaccines has been discredited and retracted.
But that's little comfort to Rhonda Burcham, a Huntington resident who said her grandson was diagnosed with autism after receiving his measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. She said his physician told the family the autism was caused by the vaccine. Burcham's daughter was a denied a medical exemption and the family moved to Ohio to avoid vaccinating the boy.
"I wish for [legislators] to listen to parents," Burcham said. "We put you in office, you represent us. This is what we want."
Nicole and Justin Matten of Vermont were speakers at the rally. The Mattens lost their 7-year-old daughter Kaylynne in December, days after she received her annual flu vaccine.
They say the vaccine caused her death. The family is now suing in Vaccination Compensation Court. Finn represents the family.
Nicole Matten said she urged West Virginia legislators to read Kaylynne's story.
"Say yes to Senate Bill 50," she said. "It should be a parent's choice."
Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.