A high school senior in West Virginia is fighting for what she believes is her right to refuse to be vaccinated.
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Hudok is poised to be the valedictorian of her class, but was told this past September that because she did not obtain the required vaccinations, she cannot come back to school. Her father, Phillip Hudok, who teaches at Olivia’s school, Pickens School–a small institution that teaches K through 12, told Christian News Network that their family opposes vaccinations for several reasons.
“I’ve been against them for years,” Hudok said. “We believe that it’s a defiling of the body. … We believe that the Lord has given us bodies that are very well designed and are able to fight [diseases without these shots].”
“We don’t believe it’s a medically sound thing to do,” he continued. “We believe that Autism is caused by a lot of these vaccines.”
“We believe it’s an intrusion into the family,” Hudok added as a third reason as to why he is against the required shots.
Hudok said that he has been studying vaccines for a number of years, and has even produced documentaries on the issue. Now, the topic has turned personal as Olivia faces off with her local school district about the matter.
The day that Olivia did not return to school, she released a videotaped explanation as to why she was not bending to the demands of the school district and the state health department.
“Yes, I have failed to become vaccinated, and I do not plan to concede just because the DHHR has mandated it,” she said. “Vaccinations should be voluntary. There are medical, philosophical, and religious reasons that demand an individual’s right to decide.”
Phillip Hudok explained that the matter began when the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources noted that the Center for Disease Control has made recommendations that youth obtain new booster shots for meningitis, diphtheria and whooping cough.
“The state DHHR instructed the county DHHR that they were instituting this policy statewide and that by law it had to be enforced,” he said, noting that the mandate pertains only to 7th and 12th graders.
However, Hudok takes issue with the matter because he feels that the requirement is not really law at all.
“The DHHR tried to get [the requirement] passed through the legislature. The legislature wouldn’t pass it,” he said. “So, they went around the legislature and passed it by what’s called ‘administrative rule.'”
“There are appointed positions, and they’re acting as if they have the power of the legislative branch of government,” Hudok remarked.
The Hudok family has since filed a lawsuit against the mandate, asking the court to grant an injunction, but the case is currently on hold until a ruling is handed down in a similar challenge in Kanawha Circuit Court. Phillip states that his county is the only one in the state so far that has not thrown out lawsuits against vaccine requirements. Two other challenges have recently been filed in various counties as well.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, West Virginia has one of the most stringent vaccination laws in the nation. While all other states provide religious exemptions from vaccine requirements, West Virginia and Mississippi are the only two that do not provide any type of waiver.
“Hopefully, the legislature will pass an immunization religious freedom act in the upcoming legislative session so that people like me with religious convictions have a law protecting them,” Olivia said. “A religious freedom act would protect the responsibility of parents to make decisions in raising their children, as they are entrusted by God.”
Phillip Hudok said that the Deputy Attorney General Barbara Allen told the court recently that if parents refuse to have their children vaccinated, the state should be entitled to “medical power of attorney and forcibly vaccinate them.”
For now, Olivia is obtaining instruction at home, and does much of her schooling via Skype. Her father also acts as her teacher, and she meets with a French instructor every week. In addition, she is taking two college courses at nearby Davis and Elkins College.
When asked what parents should do whose children are in a similar situation, Phillip Hudok said that people need to educate themselves before making a decision.
“They better investigate before they vaccinate,” he advised. “[If something happens to your child,] the pharmacy companies have immunity as long as they list the side effects in what is called a drug insert. If you look at the drug insert, [it says] you can have seizures.”
In the meantime, Olivia says that she hopes that she will somehow be allowed to go back to school.
“It is my intention to return to school and finish as a member of Pickens School’s Class of 2013,” she said. “I hope that the school system will do the right thing and not bar me because of vaccines.”
State and county officials were not available for comment at press time.