Increases in the number of cases of mumps and hepatitis A may prompt the state to spend close to $1 million each year to respond to outbreaks of diseases that can be prevented with vaccines.
Officials from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control named a $997,000 request for funds to buy vaccines a top priority as they made their case to state budget writers in Columbia on Jan. 22. Those funds would purchase 31,000 vaccines for hepatitis A and the three-part vaccine to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella.
DHEC says the request for recurring funds will allow the department to buy vaccines for “mitigating outbreaks and increasing immunization rates.” Vaccine hesitancy and drops in federal aid were among the reasons the money was needed, officials told legislators.
“Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are increasing worldwide, including diseases like hepatitis A and mumps in South Carolina,” a DHEC spokesperson told the City Paper on Wednesday.
Other priorities named in the presentation include $4.5 million in one-time money to clean up the Able recycling facility in Jasper County that caught fire in late December, and a combined $3 million in recurring funds for hazardous waste response and air quality programs. But the $997,000 request for recurring vaccine funds was named as the agency’s “first budget priority for FY20-21.”
[content-1] DHEC and the federal Centers for Disease Control assisted the College of Charleston when the campus experienced mumps cases in late 2019. During the outbreak between mid-September 2019 and Jan. 8 2020, 73 mumps cases were confirmed by campus officials. Another handful of cases were reported in Dorchester County in late November, according to CofC and DHEC figures shared with The Post and Courier. Mumps can be treated with rest and over-the-counter meds, but sometimes its effects can linger.
Mumps is usually preventable with the MMR vaccine most young children receive as required by law to attend school in South Carolina, but it’s not 100 percent effective and students can request vaccine waivers for personal reasons. At College of Charleston, 196 students have requested waivers out of more than 12,600 health records on file, the school says.
Hepatitis A, a disease transmitted by person-to-person contact, is also preventable with a vaccine. Over the course of the current outbreak beginning on Nov. 1 2018, DHEC has recorded 716 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A, with 49 in Charleston County.
While this budget request would go toward treating less-common diseases, influenza is still more common in South Carolina. For reference, 1,472 people have been hospitalized with the flu over 2019-2020, according to DHEC.
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.