With summer break coming to a close, state officials want to remind parents of the vaccines their children are required to have to attend public and private schools.
But in a time of skepticism and high-profile celebrities supporting a growing anti-vaccine campaign, doctors are having to dispel rumors and misinformation.
“Vaccines — it’s introducing to someone’s body a piece of a bacteria or virus that could cause a serious infection, but without ever introducing the infection,” said Dr. Andrea Gregory, who works in pediatrics at Self Regional Healthcare’s Montgomery Center for Family Medicine.
The number of vaccines available is fairly limited, but there are about 10 that are routinely given, she said. They include tetanus, pertussis, diphtheria, chickenpox and others that have some overlap with DHEC’s required immunizations. According to DHEC, students enrolled in grades 5K-12 in public and private schools, based on their grade level, must be up to date on their Hepatitis B, Polio, chickenpox, DTaP, MMR and Tdap vaccines.
“The most common reaction people will have after getting a vaccine is a little soreness at the injection site,” Gregory said. “Most of the things we vaccinate against will cause death in some people.”
Vaccines immunize people against diseases that are especially dangerous to young children and elderly people whose immune systems may be weakened. Making sure everyone has had their vaccines lowers the likelihood of any of those illnesses spreading. For instance, Gregory said when the vaccination rate for measles dips to about 90-95%, communities start seeing outbreaks.
She hears from parents who are concerned that their children are being exposed to so many vaccinations at once and ask to space the injections out by a matter of months at times.
“Every day, children in particular because they put everything in their mouth, you’re exposed to millions and millions of bacteria,” she said. “Delaying your child’s vaccinations only leaves them unprotected for the things they haven’t been vaccinated for yet, and it increases the overall amount of pain from having to do multiple injections over time.”
She said she’s had all the vaccines she gives and made sure her children were all vaccinated on the recommended schedule.
In the cases she runs into someone who has bought into the repeatedly disproven theory that vaccines cause autism, she said she tries to be understanding of their concerns while still presenting the facts.
“Typically, what I do is find out where they got that information,” she said. “What I want is to understand their fears and find out where they got the information, so I can best refute that. We know from study after study after study that it’s not true.”
DHEC recommends parents and guardians schedule their children’s appointment with a doctor before school starts to avoid any potential delays. Parents will receive a state Certificate of Immunization for every shot the child gets, and a copy should be provided to the child’s school, according to DHEC.
Vaccines are also available at DHEC’s health departments. For an appointment, call 855-472-3432.