- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem on Friday said she’s against a bill that would stop South Dakota schools and colleges from requiring students to get vaccinations.

The Republican governor told reporters that vaccinations save lives and that her office will be opposing the bill when it is presented to a committee next week. House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, a Republican from Platte, introduced the proposal to drop vaccination requirements for students. The proposal has the backing of a few influential lawmakers.

Qualm has said he’s not necessarily opposed to vaccinations, but wanted to leave the choice up to parents. The state currently allows vaccination exemptions only for students who have weakened immune systems or who have religious objections.

“Vaccinations have literally saved millions of lives over the years,” Noem said.

The Department of Health, under her administration, has promoted vaccines as safe and important for keeping kids healthy. The Department 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.



But the issue of vaccinations has already come up several time in the House. On Thursday, lawmakers supporting a bill that would stop schools from doing medical exams or other non-emergency procedures on children without parental support said they feared some schools could administer flu shots without parental consent. Other lawmakers said that schools don’t administer flu shots.

The bill failed by one vote, but may be reconsidered.

Department of Health spokesman Derrick Haskins said that some school districts do host flu shot clinics, but parental consent is always required.

House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, a Sioux Falls Democrat, said the discussion revealed a recurring distrust of doctors and medical authorities by Republicans in the House.

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