Lawmaker wants to prohibit student vaccination requirements

February 5, 2020 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers will weigh a proposal from one legislative leader to drop vaccination requirements for students.

House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, a Republican from Platte, introduced a bill Wednesday to stop schools and colleges in the state from requiring vaccinations to enter school. The state currently allows vaccination exemptions only for students who have weakened immune systems or who have religious objections.

The bill would also raise the punishment for schools and physicians that “compel” someone to get a vaccination from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.


“I’m not opposed to vaccines, but I believe it should be up to the parents,” Qualm said.

He said he was concerned with the amount of vaccines that children receive and their effects on kids. Qualm said he wants the bill to apply to adults as well. The bill includes a statement that people may not be discriminated against for refusing to accept an unwanted medical procedure, including immunization.

He said he has heard from adults in the state who were pressured by their employers to get vaccines.

The South Dakota Department of Health says that vaccines help keep kids safe, build immunity against potentially life-threatening diseases and are tested to ensure they are safe.

House Minority Leader, Jamie Smith, a Sioux Falls Democrat, said the bill is “not a good idea for public health in the state of South Dakota.”

“The misinformation that anti-vaxxers perpetuate is alarming to people who believe in science,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control last year recorded the highest number of measles cases in the nation since 1992. Most of those cases were among people who were not vaccinated against the disease.

The South Dakota Department of Health reported that over 96% of kindergartners have been vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella, representing one of the highest coverage rates in the nation. The state has not had a reported case of measles since 2015.