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Health officials urge vaccinations amid a ‘much more powerful surge’ of sicknesses

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 9:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - DHEC and Prisma Health have partnered for this year’s South Carolina Immunization Week to remind South Carolinians of all ages to be immunized against preventable diseases.

Physicians say many people missed their annual checkups last year due to the pandemic, and as a result, fewer people got their regularly scheduled vaccinations. Doctors say the lack of immunizations last year has led to an increase in sicknesses of all kinds, including COVID-19.

“We’re seeing all kinds of other things pop up, that now are crowding our offices, crowding the emergency rooms, crowding the floors, crowding the intensive care units,” said Pediatrician Dr. Debbie Greenhouse of Palmetto Pediatric.

Children and adolescents are being hit the hardest, doctors say because many have missed important vaccines that are needed each year for schools and daycares. Along with sicknesses like croupe, whooping cough, influenza, and hand, foot, and mouth disease, doctors are seeing a surge in COVID cases among young people, with those under 12 being at a high risk as they’re too young to be vaccinated against the virus.

“We are seeing the impact of the second surge here at Children’s Hospital in a much more powerful way than we ever saw with the first surge,” said Dr. Anna Kathryn Rye Burch, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital.

People who are immunocompromised are also at high risk for sicknesses. Vesha Jamison’s 11-year-old son, Dreylan, has Sickle Cell Anemia which makes it harder for him to recover from illnesses. Jamison says she remembers staying with Dreylan in Prisma Children’s Hospital for weeks as he healed from common viruses.

“When I think of my child sitting next to another child at school who’s coughing, sneezing, or may not be vaccinated, I think about the risk it puts him at,” said Jamison. “And where that child may be okay in a couple of days, that may mean that Dreylan and I get to hang out with the wonderful staff here at Prisma for weeks on end, not knowing what the outcome may be.”

Jamison says getting vaccinated is a “simple, selfless act of kindness” that anyone can do to protect those who are not able to protect themselves against preventable diseases.

DHEC Director, Dr. Edward Simmer, says there are many different vaccines that have been around for decades that have eradicated many previously common illnesses. Doctors fear that as vaccination rates drop for multiple different illnesses, some of those diseases might make a comeback.

“Immunizations are really the one thing we have that prevent us from spreading things to each other, allow us to live together safely, and congregate in the many places we like to go,” said Simmer.

After mentioning the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine, Simmer pointed out the vaccines for smallpox, polio, and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) that are effective and regularly scheduled for people.

“The fact that we now have effective vaccines that have eliminated 99.9% of the cases of those diseases is truly remarkable,” said Simmer.

Doctors say you should call your and your child’s doctors to make sure your family is up to date on all regularly scheduled vaccines. If you’re not, physicians recommend getting vaccinated as soon as possible for illnesses including COVID-19.

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