COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There are more parents choosing not to have their children vaccinated each year in South Carolina, according to data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
Over the last five years, the number of children whose parents chose not to have them vaccinated for religious reasons has grown by nearly 4,666 kids.
Brenda Greene is one Columbia mother who's concerned by the numbers. Greene's 12-year-old son, Braden, has Sickle Cell, which weakens his immune system. She feels her son's life may depend on other parents vaccinating their children.
"Braden is actually susceptible to respiratory illnesses. Pneumonia, flu...diseases that you can get a vaccine for, those can be life-threatening for Braden," Greene explained.
The Greene family has been in and out of the Palmetto Health Richland Children's Hospital over the years, caring for Braden. That's why Brenda Greene is worried over the increasing number of children NOT being vaccinated.
"It's scary. It scares me, that's what it does. And I understand it, and then I know that we even have to be more careful with him," she adds.
There are six different vaccinations against diseases for school-age children, based on age. There are vaccinations for diseases like Hepatitis, Polio, Chickenpox, and Measles unless children use the religious or medical exemptions allowed.
"Those exemptions are allowed, but we still encourage all families to get their children vaccinated," DHEC's medical consultant, Dr. Teresa Foo explained.
If there's an outbreak of a disease or concern there will be, those who opted-out of vaccination would miss school.
Dr. Anna-Kathryn Burch is a vaccination expert at Palmetto Health Richland Children's Hospital. On the increasing amount of children not vaccinated, she says, "it's always a concern. You know right, we're seeing a measles outbreak across the United States and we feel like that could be potentially in part to people not getting vaccinated."
The number of children not vaccinated last year because of religious reasons was about 9,427 out of 798,558 enrolled. That amounts to 1.18% of children enrolled in school not being vaccinated in the 2017-2018 school year.