Needless to say, there is no better metaphor on this one: The proposed immunization bill in the South Dakota Legislature has really hit a raw nerve with a lot of people.
And rightly so, to be honest.
The legislation in question is House Bill 1235, which has been characterized by some as prohibiting schools from mandating that students have immunizations. It reads, “No public or nonpublic post-secondary educational institutions may mandate any immunizations for school entry. A public or private post-secondary educational institution may request any student to submit medical records. No educational institution may use coercive means to require immunization.” It would make it a misdemeanor for any school to demand such immunizations. It would also make South Dakota the first state in the country to have no vaccine mandates.
The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Lee Qualm of Platte, has drawn a lot of national attention — which, as we know by now, is NEVER a good sign.
It also veers into the choppy waters of the anti-vaccination, or anti-vaxxer, debate — perhaps unintentionally, but there is no getting around that tie-in.
This is an unfortunate piece of legislation. In seeking a hands-off approach to personal health care and health prevention, it creates the very real danger of exposing more of the population to diseases that might otherwise not be seen as much of a threat.
District 18’s lawmakers were in definite agreement on this matter during last Saturday’s legislative cracker barrel. They pointed out the importance of vaccinations not only to protecting children from diseases but also in protecting adults. Rep. Jean Hunhoff, who is a nurse, pointed to the recent mumps outbreak in the region as a sign that safeguards are still needed.
Vaccinations are a sensible line of defense. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, childhood vaccines are 90-99% effective in preventing diseases. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that childhood immunization in this country has likely prevented about 419 million illnesses, 26.8 million hospitalizations and 936,000 early deaths among children born between 1994-2018.
Vaccinations have largely turned diseases such as polio and rubella that once stalked children into distant threats.
The rise of the anti-vaccination mentality has produced a resurgence of measles and mumps, thus reviving these threats.
That’s why the response to — and against — HB 1235 has been so strong among many people. The move away from requiring immunizations is extremely questionable, to put it mildly.
If someone truly opposes vaccinations, the state does have a process that allows waivers for health or religious reasons. That should suffice.
For the large majority of people who see the removal of this mandate as questionable at best and embarrassingly dangerous at worse, the bill makes no sense at all.
Rejecting HB 1235 is the best and healthiest thing lawmakers can do.