WMBF Investigates: Vaccination rate in local schools

WMBF Investigates: Vaccination rate in local schools

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - During the 2016-2017 school year, just one out of every 31 students in Horry County Schools was not vaccinated.

At nearly 97 percent, it's the eighth worst rate in the state. Still, it's information the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control needs to have a snapshot of what's happening in your child's school.

"Our biggest input is at the beginning of the school year," said Tammy Trulove, director of health and safety for the district. "We have what we call 45-day report in October that gives the percentage of children that are vaccinated in our schools and those that are not vaccinated. That doesn't go away in October. That's one of those pieces of paper that we tend to work on every day for our children."

WMBF News analyzed the 45-day DHEC report for the 2016-2017 school year. Students who aren't vaccinated can get medical exemptions, religious exemptions or unspecified special exemptions.

Here are some highlights of that report:

  • At 455, Horry County had the seventh-most religious exemptions of all South Carolina counties. The 822 special exemptions fell only behind Richland, Aiken and Sumter counties.
  • Marion County has the highest rate of vaccinated students, with just 18 exemptions for 5,042 students, or 99.64 percent. All 387 kindergartners in the county were vaccinated, compared to three out of every four in Dillon County, which had the lowest kindergarten vaccination rate in the state.
  • Statewide, the rate for seventh graders with valid Tdap vaccinations lags behind the overall vaccination rate, 93 percent compared to 97 percent overall.

Click here to review the 2017-2018 Required Standards of Immunization for School Attendance form.

There's a requirement for those exempt last year - a renewed exemption for this year. Without it, parents can expect a notice from the district.

"The 30-day notice notifies the parent that within 30 days you need to catch up on these vaccines," Trulove said. "Or, your child will have a period of time where we will allow them that opportunity to get the vaccines and then that could result in suspension of school."

Trulove said she sees the same issues year after year.

"I think sometimes it's difficult because parents don't have a physician home that they can go to," she said. "They might seek care at one of the Doctor's Care clinics or something, and nobody's really following what that vaccination schedule really is. And, like I said, once we bring it to their attention, most parents go and get that done, and get that information and get it back to us."

The state used to provide parents the chance to have their child vaccinated without having to go to a doctor or local clinic, but has decided not to hold the spring events this year.

Trulove said HCS will work with DHEC to find alternatives. She added the program was discontinued because of a lack of participation statewide, but HCS had a 48 percent participation rate.

Trulove also said your child is not at a heightened risk of getting sick simply by being in the same classroom as a non-vaccinated child. Those kids who aren't vaccinated get pulled out of class in the event of an outbreak.

"We do offer services to that child while they're out of school, but certainly that child would be more at risk for disease at that point than what other children would be," she said.

Use this interactive map to analyze vaccination statistics for all of the state's 46 counties:

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