Six families sue West Virginia over new vaccine rule

Six families in the state of West Virginia are suing the state's Department of Health and Human Resources, claiming the agency cannot force new vaccine requirements upon schoolchildren.

A recent rule change requires incoming seventh graders in the state to show proof they received one dose of meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccines starting in the 2012-2013 school year. Incoming high school seniors must prove they received booster doses after the age of 16. Without vaccination proof from before or shortly after the beginning of the school year, students cannot attend school, Associated Press reports.

Patrick Lane, the attorney for the families, said that the DHHR overstepped state code by trying to require additional vaccines without the approval of the state legislature. The state code requires children coming to school for the first time to be immunized against whooping cough, tetanus, rubella, measles, polio and diphtheria.

"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 said, according to 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."

Lane said that the legislature declined previous attempts to add vaccines to the mandated list.

The Department of Education is currently attempting to inform parents about the new requirement.