Is the COVID-19 vaccine required for children going to school in South Dakota?

On Thursday, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend adding COVID-19 shots to the list of recommended vaccines for children. This has led some to believe that the COVID vaccine is going to be required for children to attend school, similar to the polio vaccine.

Here are the facts:

Does this mean that kids have to get vaccinated against COVID to go to school?


The addition of the COVID shot to the standard vaccine schedule does not put any requirement on schools to require the shot for attending children, according to a press release from the CDC.

According to the CDC “there are no changes in COVID-19 vaccine policy, and today’s action simply helps streamline clinical guidance for healthcare providers by including all currently licensed, authorized, and routinely recommended vaccines in one document.”

In fact, the CDC does not have the authority to establish vaccine requirements for public school systems. Those requirements are set at the state level, typically by state legislatures, or at the local level and they vary from state to state. Governor Noem tweeted last Wednesday:

“CDC only makes recommendations for use of vaccines, while school-entry vaccination requirements are determined by state or local jurisdictions,” the CDC release said.

Then what did this do?

The change would simply add the shots to the formal list of vaccines that doctors are recommended to regularly offer to their patients, known as the vaccine schedule.

An additional, separate recommendation by the ACIP, passed on October 19, would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the Vaccines for Children program, which covers the cost of vaccines for children whose parents cannot afford them.

Both decisions are technically only recommendations to the CDC by the ACIP and not an official decision of the CDC, but the committee’s recommendations are nearly always followed.

So what’s the situation in South Dakota?

South Dakota vaccine requirements are set by the law SDCL 13-28-7.1, which lists the following vaccines as required for children entering the public school system or early childhood programs:

  • Polio
  • Diphtheria
  • Pertussis
  • Measles, mumps, and rubella, (MMR)
  • Tetanus
  • Meningitis
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)

The law gives the South Dakota Department of Health the ability to “modify or delete any of the required immunizations,” but not to add new ones.

To add a new immunization requirement such as the COVID-19 vaccination would require a law to be passed by the South Dakota State Legislature, according to South Dakota State Representative Tina Mullaly.

“South Dakota Codified Law has jurisdiction on what immunization are required for students to enter public schools and/or daycares. It has those [immunizations] listed individually, and the state does not automatically follow CDC guidelines.”

What if I don’t want my children to be vaccinated?

According to information from the CDC, South Dakota has some of the loosest vaccination requirements in the country.

SDCL 13-28-7.1 lists two valid exemptions for child vaccinations:

  1. A medical exemption from a licensed physician stating that the vaccination would endanger the child’s health
  2. A religious exemption, in which a parent or guardian signs a document stating that they are an adherent to religious doctrine whose teachings do not allow the immunization.

Unlike many other states, South Dakota does not limit these exemptions during times of major outbreaks, epidemics, or pandemics, according to the CDC.

Can children get vaccinated without parental consent?

Before a child receives a vaccine, a parent must sign a consent form, such as this one, from the South Dakota Department of Health.



Categories: South Dakota News