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Bill Requiring Meningitis Vaccine Moves Forward

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Students may soon have to receive a meningitis vaccine before entering middle school. A state House committee passed a measure requiring the vaccine. The discussion centered on public health and patient choice.

 

Proponents of Senate Bill 28 say meningitis is a dangerous disease, and the vaccine helps save lives and protect the public. Justin Bell represents the South Dakota State Medical Association.

 
“Mandatory vaccination policy is one of the greatest weapons we have in public health, if not the greatest weapon that we have as it relates to public health,” Bell says. “There are people who can’t, we’ve heard about people who can’t get vaccinated as it relates to this, it protects them. It’s also important to note that no vaccine, including the meningitis vaccine is 100% effective.”
 
Proponents say the vaccine is safe. Opponents say the vaccine isn’t cost effective, doesn’t cover all strains of meningitis, and carries a risk of adverse reactions. Representative Steve Haugaard says parents shouldn’t be forced to vaccinate their children.
 
“There’s absolutely no reason why the state couldn’t encourage families through the schools if they want to, to obtain these immunizations, and have public advisories about the importance of immunizations, and people can choose to do that if they want to,” Haugaard says. “But again it’s the state mandate that I just don’t think is appropriate at this time. I think it’s more appropriate to take a little longer look at this and revisit it later.”
 
Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill with a vote of seven to six.