No conscience exemption of COVID vaccine in SD after house vote

FILE(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 7:11 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakotans will not be able to claim a conscience exemption from taking an employer-mandatory COVID-19 shot.

The House defeated the bill, HB 1235, 30 to 39 after about 40 minutes of debate.

Proponents of the bill said that the COVID-19 vaccines were still experimental.

Several said they, loved ones, or friends were made sick by their COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We need the ability to object to this particular vaccine,” said Republican Rep. John Mills from Brookings.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jon Hansen from Dell Rapids, said there was a “false choice” of requiring mandatory employee vaccinations.

He and other legislators said employers could do testing, require masks, or segregate employees instead of requiring an inoculation.

Opponents said the bill violated employers’ rights to set their own work rules in a right-to-work state.

Republican Rep. Neal Pinnow (pen-now) from Lemmon said he was reluctant to oppose the bill, but as a business person, he felt he had to.

“If you’re a business owner, you should have a problem with this bill,” he said. “This will affect small-town businesses. This denies your opportunity to set your own rules if you want to.”

Other opponents said it could put medical and nursing programs at risk as the hospitals and the universities they contract with would face liability if they required students to get the vaccination.

The bill provided for triple damages, costs, and attorney’s fees if a court found the employer required an employee to vaccinate, and they refused.