COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said the Palmetto State saw a reduction in routine pediatric vaccine orders and administered doses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to DHEC, doses administered were down 35% in April 2020 compared to April 2019. They said providers in South Carolina gave 69,542 doses of pediatric vaccines this April. They administered 108,245 in April 2019.
There was also a 21% decrease this March compared to last March as well, DHEC said.
The number of pediatric vaccines ordered by providers was also down. According to officials, 44,486 doses of pediatric vaccines were ordered in April 2020, compared to 75,228 doses ordered in April 2019.
Pediatricians across the state said this decline in vaccination rates is concerning.
“Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions in reducing disease spread, preventing complications and even deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases,” A spokesperson for DHEC wrote.
According to DHEC, each year, the South Carolina Immunization Requirements for Childcare and School is updated to align with current federal requirements and guidelines.
Health officials said if children aren’t vaccinated, they can spread diseases to other children who are too young to be vaccinated or to people with weakened immune systems, which could result in long-term complications and even death for these vulnerable people.
“Parents should not wait to have their children vaccinated,” a DHEC spokesperson said, “and certain vaccines are a state requirement, regardless of whether the student is attending school in-person or virtually.”
“Complications from COVID-19 can be more severe for those with underlying health conditions and those currently infected with other illnesses like flu or mumps,” a DHEC official wrote.
Students in South Carolina who have not been vaccinated can only attend a school or child care center if they have a medical or religious exemption.
According to DHEC, more than 12,000 students received exemptions for the 2019-20 school year.