Rise in religious exemptions from vaccines worry officials

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has expressed concern over an increase in the number of religious exemptions claimed to avoid vaccinations.

The Post & Courier of Charleston reports department data indicates the number of religious exemptions increased nearly 70 percent between 2013 and 2017, rising to 8,074 exemptions during the 2016-2017 school year.

South Carolina does not allow parents to claim personal exemptions to avoid school vaccine rules, but children are allowed to attend public school if they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.

DHEC spokeswoman Adrianna Bradley says the rise increases the risk for the spread of diseases preventable by vaccination. She noted the rate remains relatively low, with only 1.02 percent of the total population claiming religious exemption during the 2016-2017 school year.