More S.C. parents saying no to common vaccines

Updated: Dec. 17, 2020 at 11:46 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In a year where people have been waiting for a coronavirus vaccine, a portion of parents seem to be foregoing the common vaccines when it comes to their children.

There are certain vaccines that are required for school-aged children. Those include Hepatitis A and B, DTaP (whooping cough, tetanus) and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).

“We’re seeing a perfect example of a virus that sort of rears its ugly head and then the only thing that we really have, as a society, is vaccinating as many people as possible to minimize the risk because there are going to be some people who might not be able to get vaccinated,” Dr. Kenneth Perry, the Assistant Medical Director at Summerville Medical Center, said.

Perry said, unfortunately, we’re starting to see some of these diseases making a comeback, like the measles outbreak we saw last year.

“The fact that we’re starting to get back to outbreaks of these things means we have to work extra hard to make sure it stays on our radar screen,” Perry said.

But, across the Palmetto state, parents are more likely to say “no” to required vaccines for their children than five years ago.

That’s according to the most recent data from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. According to health officials, there are two criteria in which you would qualify for an exemption – medical and religious.

According to DHEC, there were 1,069 students exempt from getting vaccinations this school year in South Carolina because of a medical reason.

Katy Richardson, Charleston’s regional director for DHEC, explained last year how they hope to keep the number of religious exemptions at the lowest level possible.

In looking at the data, that number has been on the rise until this year when parents seem to have been less likely to ask for a religious exemption.

This current school year, 12,577 students had a religious exemption across South Carolina. That number is slightly lower from last school year’s number of 12,775 but still up from the 2018-2019 school year which had 11,154.

This year, Greenville County had the most religious exemptions with 2,485 followed by Spartanburg County which had 1,735. Charleston County rounded out the top three 1,013 exemptions – nearly double what it was five years ago. It’s important to note those are some of the biggest school districts in the state. In looking at the percentage of religious exemptions in each county, Charleston County comes in sixth with 1.84%.

“There’s very few things that are going to be deadly for everyone that comes in contact with it,” Perry said. “If you think about it, it’s very hard for a virus to propagate if it kills every host. There’s no way that it’s going to continue on. So, the fact that it lives a little bit longer, that actually lets it be passed from person to person. So you need to vaccinate because that subset that can get extremely ill and pass away from it - that’s the subset we’re trying to protect against.”

Below is a breakdown of counties in and around the Lowcountry for the 2020-2021 school year:

CountyStudents EnrolledMedical ExemptionsReligious Exemptions
Allendale County91301
Bamberg County2,02407
Beaufort County24,32732384
Berkeley County38,33330555
Calhoun County1,1913112
Charleston County54,9451341,013
Clarendon County5,540412
Colleton County5,182547
Dorchester County27,77352433
Georgetown County8,5691283
Hampton County2,61334
Horry County46,00285776
Jasper County3,919118
Orangeburg County12,728535
Williamsburg County3,54017

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