Committee approves vaccine exemption bill

February 15, 2023

PIERRE, S.D.–A South Dakota legislative committee approved a bill Tuesday that would establish a “conscience” exemption from COVID-19 vaccine mandates, after the committee hearing at the Capitol in Pierre disintegrated into a parade of misinformation and offensive language.

Joshua Haiar of South Dakota Searchlight ( reports the House Health and Human Services Committee voted 7-6 to send the bill to the full House of Representatives. The legislation would establish a legal right to opt out of COVID-19 vaccine mandates that violate a person’s “inner conviction regarding that which is right or wrong.”

The bill says people couldn’t be disciplined for not getting the vaccine. Additionally, institutions could be sued for mandating the vaccine if they failed to let their employees or students know about the exemption.

The legislation does not apply to the National Guard or health care facilities; however, it does apply to educational institutions, including medical schools.

Opponents of the bill, including some public health officials and health care organizations, argued it could undermine efforts to combat a new variant, put vulnerable populations at risk, and exert too much control over private businesses.

“This bill will create an extremely troubling precedent and launch us on a slippery slope that will lead to attempts to expand this subjective and absolute exemption to all vaccines,” said Justin Smith, a lobbyist for the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Prime sponsor Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, said the bill protects individual freedom and the right to make medical decisions based on personal beliefs.