We haven't yet heard the testimony in committee, but the introduction of House Bill 1235 in the South Dakota Legislature seems like a step in the wrong direction.

HB 1235 essentially prohibits any South Dakota school -- public or private, at any level -- from requiring the vaccination of incoming students. Doing so would be a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill would make South Dakota the only state to have no vaccine mandates.

We're all aware of the anti-vaccination movement in recent years. Despite scientific consensus that recommended vaccines are safe and effective, unsubstantiated scares regarding their safety still occur.

The most recent surge was started by a 1998 paper published in a British medical journal linking the MMR vaccine and autism. The paper was later discredited and the author was proven to have deliberately falsified information and barred from practicing medicine.

But it only takes a celebrity or two on social media to cause some parents to refuse vaccines. The result is disease outbreaks and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Ironically, the nation that has benefited most from vaccines, the United States, is among those with anti-immunization movements. Undeveloped countries around the world are begging for vaccines to prevent diseases that harm or kill their children.

The Centers for Disease Control says 14 childhood diseases are preventable by vaccination, including chicken pox, mumps, measles, and whooping cough. Unfortunately, many of these illnesses that once seemed eradicated in the United States have re-emerged in large part due to the anti-immunization movement.

In addition, children who contract these illnesses also put other children, and adults, at risk. That is reason enough to maintain the requirement for incoming students to be immunized to attend school.

-- Jon M. Hunter