While many hope for a vaccine against COVID-19, Greenville County Schools and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control are working to get school-aged children the necessary vaccines to attend school this year.
“This year, the South Carolina DHEC has given a 30-day waiver so that our requirement for the compliant immunization record on file is now September 24,” said Janet Lage, director of health services at Greenville County Schools.
Across the state, there have been fewer vaccinations than usual.
“Similar to the rest of the country, South Carolina saw a reduction in routine pediatric vaccine orders and administered doses during the months of March and April in 2020,” said Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist, in a release on Aug. 18. “Children’s routine vaccinations cannot be forgotten and have never been more important.”
The pandemic may have stopped some parents from taking their children to necessary doctor’s appointments as doctors’ offices closed in the first few months of the pandemic and hospitals shifted their operations.
“For a while their parents either weren’t going to their children’s appointments or they were putting them off for fear of being exposed to the disease,” she said. “But I can tell you now there are places to go.”
Lage said pediatricians are stressing the importance of children visiting their doctors and getting their immunizations. “We’re hoping that parents will follow suit and make sure that their students are immunized,” she said.
The vaccines required to attend South Carolina schools are hepatitis B; DTaP, which covers tetanus and whooping cough; polio; MMR, which covers measles, mumps and rubella; varicella for chickenpox; and the Tdap, which is a whooping cough booster required before seventh grade. This will also be the first year that the hepatitis A vaccine will be required for students entering K-5.
Students in both in-person instruction and the virtual program must have up-to-date immunizations. Parents may apply for a religious exemption. Through DHEC, children can receive vaccines at a lower cost depending on eligibility.
“Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions in history for reducing disease spread and preventing complications and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Bell. “With COVID-19’s prevalence across our state, we need to keep our children healthy and safe at all costs, and we must use the vaccines that medical science has afforded us to help prevent illnesses like mumps, measles, chickenpox and whooping cough.”
Parents can get their children vaccinated at DHEC health departments. For an appointment, call 855-472-3432.