West Virginia Governor Opposes Vaccine Mandate for Students

By Blue Future Contributor, Faith Lanham.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

In a recent interview on “Face The Nation”, West Virginia Governor, Jim Justice shamefully proclaimed that there is “no chance” that he will allow a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for West Virginia students:

“I truly believe that the mandates only divide us and only divide us more. From the standpoint of mandates, I don’t believe in imposing upon our freedoms over and over and over. I don’t know how many times I’ve got to say it,” said the Republican governor during the interview. Governor Justice added, “but from the standpoint of our children, I’m going to still encourage in every way, because I truly believe that the more people that we get vaccinated, the less people will die.”

Currently, less than 50% of the West Virginia population is fully vaccinated. 51 out of the 55 counties in West Virginia have lifted some level of a vaccine mandate in schools. There were 72 COVID-19 cases throughout 26 counties, then, 1,000 kids tested positive across the state. Governor Justice is still actively encouraging the vaccine due to outbreaks in the state.

The way Governor Justice has approached vaccines has been interesting.

He has a lottery system in place for West Virginia residents. The system has benefited both young and older folks. He’s given out both partial and full scholarships to West Virginia Students for free tuition for West Virginia public colleges. Then for older folks, he has given out everything from shotguns to trucks — really in the West Virginia fashion.

Now, with all of that being said, it’s still not a great look for the state. Although these programs have had minor success, it still proves how unwilling many West Virginia residents are to take precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Now, the governor opposing vaccine mandates for students is very concerning. His defense is that it is up to the parents to choose for their children.

For decades students have been required to get certain vaccines in order to attend school in the name of public health. This is no different.

In the past, if students did not get certain vaccines, they would have to be homeschooled. Due to other states and school districts across the country taking similar actions for COVID-19 it seems that the same rule of thumb will be applied.

There is potential harm in letting parents have full control over whether their child gets vaccinated or not as some of these parents in Governor Justice’s state may be more inclined to believe misinformation, or to misinform their children. All across the country there is a battle between what is true and what is not with Critical Race Theory (CRT) — which in fact is a concerning debate in and of itself. Removing CRT from classrooms would lead to an even greater decline in the education of American children. Ultimately, it would continue to perpetuate this harmful cycle of misinformation.

All in all, Governor Justice’s actions have been shameful. He is a solid C- governor who did okay-ish with the COVID-19 pandemic and has signed terrible legislation into law that directly impacts low-income families, people of color, and other marginalized communities.

For a governor whose state has 1-in-4 of its children living in poverty, Governor Justice does not seem to care much about the wellbeing of children, and it shows with every action he takes.

About Faith: Faith Lanham (she/they) is a junior at Saint Maria Goretti Catholic High School in Hagerstown, Maryland. Outside of Blue Future, she is involved in Coalition Z and other publications she contributes to. Another way she enjoys contributing to her love of stories is by being apart of her school’s book club. She is passionate about Title IX and immigration reform in particular. The thing that most excites her about writing is tell the stories that have not been told by the young people who are going to shape the future.

Blue Future is building a diverse youth movement that will inspire, mobilize and invest in young people to organize for a brighter tomorrow.