Report examines barriers to routine immunization adherence among children ages 0-6 in South Carolina

The South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH) has released its newest report, Childhood Immunizations in South Carolina, which examines barriers to routine immunization adherence among children ages 0-6.

Despite the availability of routine childhood vaccinations in South Carolina and efforts to increase adherence, more work is needed to reduce barriers to immunization. Barriers to routine childhood vaccinations may include limited access to primary care providers, lack of transportation, scheduling limitations and the complexity of the health care system.

Accessing pediatric care can be a challenge in many areas of the state. According to the American Board of Pediatrics, in 2020, 11 rural South Carolina counties reported a rate of zero pediatricians per 10,000 children. Those 11 counties represent 23.9% of South Carolina’s 46 counties with an inadequate number of practicing pediatricians.

Increasing access to routine childhood immunizations in the Palmetto State has implications for the state’s economy. A 2016 Johns Hopkins University study exploring the economic consequences of vaccine nonadherence found that for every dollar the United States spends on immunization, the country saves $16 by preventing health care costs, lost wages and lost productivity due to illness. Similarly, a Harvard University study found that “vaccines don’t just save lives, they also have a huge economic impact on families, communities and economies” by helping families avoid both medical bankruptcy and educational disruptions due to illness.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, existing vaccine exemptions in South Carolina include medical exemptions, religious exemptions and special exemptions. Increasing rates of exemptions from school entry requirements in the state, leading to decreased levels of immunity, have been shown to create pockets of populations that are susceptible to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

For more information, access the full report.