A billboard along I-64 in Dunbar is just one example of many that are up across the Mountain State. A nonprofit called West Virginians for Health Freedom began the campaign a couple of months ago.
I spoke with board member, Chanda Adkins, over the phone. She said their organization is made up of medical professionals, parents and concerned citizens who “feel that vaccines can pose a threat and harm some individuals.”
Some have accused the campaign of promoting an anti-vaccine agenda- something Adkins said just isn’t true. “People need to realize that just because people are concerned about ingredients or things that could happen to their children, their most precious gift, it doesn’t make them ‘anti’. It actually, to me, makes them good parents,” she said.
Billboards are up from Huntington to Morgantown.
According to the CDC, vaccines work to eliminate disease. That notion is something West Virginia Health Right’s Executive Director, Angie Settle, agrees with vehemently. “It’s dangerous” she said.
“They’re doubting medical practices that have been proven and that have been in place for years,” Settle added. “In my opinion, there’s nothing broken about the system. It’s one of the things we do great and we do correctly.”
A medical exemption is the only way around vaccinating children in West Virginia.
Adkins said providers in the state need to be more open any apprehension a parent or guardian may have. “They also bully parents,” she said. “I’ve experienced that myself. We have to change the way we talk to concerned parents about what’s happening with their children.”
Settle, on the other hand, says backtracking now could be catastrophic. “Suddenly, this defense mechanism that we have against these illnesses that were eradicated a hundred years ago, suddenly they’re back in the mainstream.”
Adkins’ nonprofit isn’t backing down.
They believe the billboards are sparking a conversation. Something that, at this point, the majority of medical professionals in the Mountain State say would do more harm than good.
Adkins said her organization’s membership numbers are up between 15% and 20% as a result of the campaign. She added that donations are funding it.