HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Summertime is coming to an end, and parents and students are gearing up for the new school year. As you prepare your kids for school, many doctors are urging you to add immunizations to your back to school list. With the rush, doctors say now is a good time to schedule appointments to beat the crowds.
The concern is the spread of preventable diseases in the classrooms. Doctors say certain vaccines depend on the child's age. If you are unsure of what shots your child might need or need to find out if they are current, you can call your child's physician.
Medical director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Grand Strand Medical Center, Dr. Rebecca Matthews, says she's seen a rise in both Whooping Cough and Measles cases not just locally here in our area, but nation-wide. She said for various reasons, parents are opting out of immunizations and doctors have seen an increase in vaccine preventable illnesses.
Some parents might be worried about the costs to get these required vaccines. The good news is most insurances cover it. However, for those that aren't insured, there are options through DHEC.
Dr. Matthews said vaccines aren't just for protecting your child, but also protecting others in your community, your family and friends.
"Couple good reasons why parents should get their kids vaccinated and get those immunizations: one is just to keep your child safe and for your child to have a healthy life. Thankfully we've been able to eradicate bad diseases, polio, small pox - and we want to protect the next generation, so you want to be able to give your child that healthy life. Second reason is not everyone can get those immunizations - babies for instance, pregnant women, cannot get every vaccination. So, by all of us being protected and getting our vaccinations, we can protect those vulnerable populations as well," said Matthews.
Although health officials encourage vaccinating your children, there are circumstances where parents can deny required student vaccinations. The state of South Carolina has two basic reasons why a child can be exempt from immunizations. One is religious and the other is for medical reasons. The Department of Health and Environmental Control's data shows a steady increase of parents in Horry County have chosen to not vaccinate their kids under religious exemptions since 2010, though last year in 2017 numbers dropped slightly.
Kayla Ahlemeyer is a local mother who's against vaccinating her children for religious and medical reasons. She said her daughter has experienced negative effects from vaccines, like getting pneumonia several times in a row and developing bad habits. That led her to do some research. Ahlemeyer said her daughter has been vaccine-free in over two years and is fed a whole food, organic diet and seems to be much healthier.
Medical exemptions are determined by your healthcare provider. Doctors say an example is a child who has a severe compromised immune system. Ahlemeyer understands that vaccines may affect people differently, so she just hopes that parents do their research.
"What I hope for the future is for more people to just be aware of what's in them… for parents to ask more questions. Look at the package inserts and decide for yourself what's best for your child. At the end of the day, the manufacturers could probably make them safer for our children, that would be nice. Because there are some diseases out there that could probably hurt our children pretty bad," said Ahlemeyer.
To learn more on the required immunization documents needed before your child heads back to school, click here.
For more information on exemptions from school vaccine requirements, click here.