West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston Gazette on vaccines:
In late October, several billboards were raised in cities throughout West Virginia (and a handful of other states) that were paid for by an anti-vaccination group, claiming that a vaccine was directly responsible for the death of a boy just four months shy of his second birthday.
The death of a child is always tragic, and it evokes a strong emotional reaction. That’s, no doubt, why Learn the Risk, a nationwide nonprofit anti-vaccine lobbying group, chose the image of the late Nicholas Cantone to look at passing motorists as they read the words: “As a nurse, I was never taught vaccines can kill until my son was a victim.”
The Cantones (Nicholas’ father is retired mixed-martial arts fighter Nick Cantone) have blamed their son’s death on a diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccination he received three weeks before he died. There is no evidence that is actually what happened.
“I certainly don’t blame (the Cantones) for wanting better answers than what they have, but a situation like that will make somebody reach for an explanation that may not be proven,” Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department told The Herald-Dispatch after one of the billboards went up in downtown Huntington recently.
We don’t blame them either. Their loss is horrific.
But it shouldn’t be exploited, even with the family’s permission, for more inroads against vaccinating children to keep them and those around them safe from an outbreak of disease.
It’s been a long time since West Virginians or the nation witnessed a run of contagious diseases through a classroom or school. It used to be common. Vaccines have curbed that problem, keeping children from becoming seriously ill or dying from an outbreak of measles, for example.
Those infectious diseases have not been eradicated, but a well-vaccinated population keeps diseases from spreading far. In fact, when outbreaks have occurred, they have typically been among communities that have not received vaccinations, like the 400 cases of measles that surfaced in an Ohio Amish community in 2014.
Lynne Arvon, who was appointed by Gov. Jim Justice to fill a vacancy in the state Senate, helped in September to push for legislation to be introduced in the 2019 session to make it easier to get a vaccination exemption. Arvon’s elevation to the Senate created a vacancy in the House of Delegates that Justice filled by appointing Chanda Adkins, a well-known anti-vaccine advocate.
The motion, approved in September interims, will result in drafting a bill allowing a doctor to grant a vaccination exemption, instead of the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
Neither Arvon nor Adkins will be around to see if the legislation goes anywhere, as both lost in their Republican primaries.
There are reasons for children not to be vaccinated, but they are medical in nature, such as an allergy to a vaccine. In fact, children who can’t be vaccinated are better protected when those around them have received those inoculations. The immunity of the group helps to stop the spread of disease, even to those who are medically unable to get their shots.
There should be no push to allow exemptions for religious purposes. Exemptions especially should not be granted based on pseudo-scientific beliefs.
“It’s one of the things we get right,” said Republican Sen. Tom Takubo, a physician, during a candidate meeting with Gazette-Mail editors in September.
Takubo described U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maps that show a sort of “halo” around West Virginia and a few other states when it comes to outbreaks of infectious diseases.
“There are risks that come with vaccinations ... however, the benefits outweigh the risks,” Takubo said, adding “every single student” coming into a West Virginia school who does not have a disqualifying medical condition should be vaccinated.
Vaccines protect millions. Perhaps the knowledge of life-altering and deadly diseases has receded too far in the public memory for people to take these diseases seriously now.
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on driving near school buses:
Mid-Ohio Valley residents care deeply about the safety of our kids. There is no doubt. But it takes only a second of distraction to turn a daily drive into a tragic situation.
Likely every school bus driver in our area has watched in shock, fear and anger as motorists ignored flashing red lights and extended stop sign arms to pass his or her big yellow bus. It happens all too often, despite law enforcement agencies’ focused attempts to stop it.
Last week, five American children were killed by motorists for whom paying a little attention was too much of a bother.
Three siblings — a 9-year-old girl and her twin 6-year-old brothers — were killed when they were struck by a pickup truck near Rochester, Ind. The children were crossing the road to get on their school bus, which was stopped with red lights flashing and a stop sign displayed.
A 24-year-old woman who was driving the truck has been arrested. She insists she just didn’t notice the bus.
A similar situation occurred in Baldwyn, Miss. A 9-year-old boy died.
And in Franklin Township, Pa., a 7-year-old boy was killed at his school bus stop, by a hit-and-run driver.
All five children died because drivers did not care enough for children to slow down just a little and watch for stopped school buses and/or children on streets and highways.
Another frequent occurrence is motorists zipping through plainly marked school zones — with children present — at well over the 15 mph speed limit.
It is something of a miracle that there have been no serious accidents in our area involving stopped school buses or school zones during the past several years. At some point, our luck will run out.
Please, pay enough attention that when a big, yellow school bus with flashing red lights and a stop sign is on the road in front of you, you see it.
The same goes for school zones where children are present at the same times each and every weekday.
Resolve to avoid the distractions that can cause such lapses in attention. Our kids are too important.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph on the situation following midterm elections:
Finally, after months of mudslinging, negative campaign attacks and finger pointing, it is over. The campaign season has ended. It’s now time to heal and unite.
This was not a healthy election cycle for our nation, or for the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. The seemingly never-ending campaign attacks were divisive. And sometimes they were just downright silly. Yes, some of those television commercials wanted us to believe that both Joe Manchin and Patrick Morrisey were to blame for the opioid epidemic. Ridiculous.
This was also the first time that we can remember in recent history when some of the candidates themselves were less than forthcoming. Some even refused to be interviewed by the local media, ignoring our requests for an editorial board session. It is a troubling new day when candidates for a major West Virginia race refuse to speak to the press.
But we digress. It’s over. Now we must begin the difficult process of uniting.
It is time to put all of the ugliness and anger behind us.
Today we must begin the long but necessary process of healing our deep partisan divides. We must come together again as neighbors and as proud Americans.
If you haven’t done so yet today, please go outside and shake your neighbor’s hand. It doesn’t matter if your neighbor is a liberal, a conservative or someone who thinks socialism is a good idea. Let go of the anger. And please — we do implore you here — resist the temptation to post a negative comment about your neighbor on Facebook.
Instead, speak to your neighbor. Shake his or her hand. Smile. Be happy.
It’s a new day.
We must now unite and realize that working together as one — all races, all genders, all ages — we are stronger. Together we can heal a nation and a state fractured of late by infighting, anger and political drama.
We must unite with our friends, neighbors and co-workers who may have stood on the other side of the red or blue line during the the long election cycle.
And we must ask those in Washington to do the same.
It will not be easy. But it can be done. We can begin the process of healing, and uniting, today.