CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The start of the school year is in full swing for many in the Lowcountry and a major thing on the list as students head back to the classroom is getting the required vaccines.
“It is hard to believe that it’s already back to school,” said Katy Richardson, Charleston’s regional director for the Department of Health and Environmental Control. “We’re excited about that because back to school time means reminding parents about immunizations and the importance of those for preventing vaccine-preventable diseases.”
“We require it each year, and we do require the schools to check to make sure before school starts that those children are indeed vaccinated,” Richardson said.
But, across the Palmetto state, parents are more than twice as likely to say “no” to vaccines for their children than just five years ago.
That’s according to the most recent data from DHEC. According to health officials, there are two criteria in which you would qualify for an exemption – medical and religious.
According to DHEC, there were 248 students exempt from getting vaccinations last school year in the Lowcountry because of a medical reason.
Richardson explained the agency hopes to keep the number of religious exemptions at the lowest level possible. That number, however, is on the rise.
Last school year, 11,154 students had a religious exemption across South Carolina. Greenville County had the most followed by Spartanburg County. Charleston County rounded out the top three with 912 exemptions – nearly double what it was five years ago.
“Every year we have cases of whooping cough in our schools, cases of chicken pox and mumps,” Richardson said. “We deal with this all the time”
DHEC says if there is an outbreak of a certain disease this year – they are prepared.