Anti-vaccination bill draws reaction from both sides

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - More controversial bills are hitting the floor of the state legislature as lawmakers are set to consider House Bill 1235 aimed at removing a school district's requirements for student vaccinations.

Tom Diggins in a Rapid City lawyer who describes himself as pro-health, not necessarily anti-vaccine. He believes it's simply a matter of freedom.

"I don't believe people that are unvaccinated are causing a problem," Diggins said. "We shouldn't have governments or school districts telling us what sort of health care or treatment we should have."

However, Rapid City School District Director of Special Services Dr. Greg Gaden believes it is not about government mandates, but rather the health of the students.

"For us to see a bill that is trying to take away immunization rights and responsibilities from school districts is scary to us," Gaden said. "If this bill were to be law, our concern is that it could send the message to families that vaccinations are not the way to go for their children, when in fact the research and all of the experience that we have says vaccinations are safe."

For Diggins and many others, however, there are still questions surrounding the safety of vaccines

"I know that there are toxic substances that are put in vaccines," Diggins said.

Elise Dick is a doctor with Monument Health and says the toxic chemicals claim is not exactly what it seems.

"The main chemical that sounds scary is formaldehyde, which is actually already in your body and the amount that is in these vaccines is a lot less than what is in your body right now," Dick said. "These vaccines have gone through many trials to show that they are safe."

Fears over vaccinations began to circulate when 1998 study conducted by Dr. Andrew Wakefield (and his colleagues) was published linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. The study was almost immediately refuted with the publishing journal retracting it.

"[Wakefield] lost his medical license because he falsified much of the information that was in that trial," Dick said. "That trial has been disproven many time over, through multiple trials."

Herd immunity is another big part of required vaccinations. It means if someone physically cannot get the vaccine because of age or a medical issue, they will still be protected because everyone around them is immunized and likely won't have the disease.

"The more people you have vaccinated against these diseases, the less likely the disease will popup and the over time the disease slowly gets out of the system," Dick said. "That's what happened with smallpox which is why we don't vaccinate for that anymore."

Even if the bill becomes law, Gaden believes parents will still vaccinate their children.

"Our families want their children vaccinated," Gaden said. "I would estimate 99 percent of our students are vaccinated. I do not see families moving back to not vaccinating their children."

Parents can already opt out of vaccinating their children by signing a form for medical or religious reasons. Gaden says there are about 200 unvaccinated children in the school district.

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