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DHEC, Prisma Officials Address Importance of Vaccinations Ahead of Upcoming Flu, Respiratory Illness Season

For Immediate Release
September 27, 2023​ 

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Prisma Health held a press conference today at Prisma Health Children's Hospital focusing on the importance of immunizations that protect people of all ages from several respiratory diseases.  

The event was livestreamed on DHEC’s Facebook page and will be archived on DHEC’s YouTube channel

“Vaccinations help protect people of all ages from common, yet serious diseases, allowing us to live safe, healthy and longer lives,” said Beth Poore, Outreach and Education Coordinator for DHEC’s Division of Immunization. “We want to ensure South Carolinians have up-to-date information to make informed decisions regarding their health during the upcoming respiratory season.”  

The beginning of fall marks the start of the respiratory season, when people are most at-risk for seasonal viruses including influenza (flu), the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19. The event covered the dangers of respiratory illnesses, updated information about immunizations for COVID and RSV, as well as the importance of immunizations for both adults and children.  

“We know that since the pandemic many children are not up to date on their immunizations,” said Dr. Anna-Kathyrn Burch, pediatric infectious diseases physician with Prisma Health. “Our goal is to empower families to safeguard their children through immunization from viral illnesses that can be devastating. This includes receiving the annual influenza vaccine.” 

“Families also should engage in regular conversations with their pediatricians to assess which of the newer vaccinations, such as the new RSV shot, may be appropriate. Vaccinations prevent and lessen the severity of these potentially deadly respiratory illnesses and we want the best for your children.” 

Today’s event also celebrated the partnerships necessary to promote vaccine education, awareness and confidence.  

“The healthcare community is working together to help improve the health of our community and vaccinations are a critical component of this effort,” said Dr. Helmut Albrecht, infectious diseases physician with Prisma Health. “We want to make sure that our community members, especially those at high risk, are protected from viruses that can cause serious illness and even death.” 

“We are fortunate to add the new RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) vaccination and updated COVID-19 vaccination to our arsenal. We ask everyone to consult their provider if you have questions about which vaccinations are appropriate for you and your family.” 

Speakers at the event included: 

Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC director 

Dr. Helmut Albrecht, infectious diseases physician with Prisma Health 

Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health director  

Dr. Anna-Kathryn Burch, pediatric infectious diseases physician with Prisma Health  

DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conduct surveillance to see what impact respiratory diseases are having on the health of individuals and communities. Every Wednesday, DHEC compiles South Carolina’s data for weekly surveillance reports called Flu Watch and the newly-launched Respiratory Disease Watch, which covers COVID-19, Flu and RSV.  

“Immunizations are one of the most effective ways to avoid illness and keep those around us well,” said Dr. Simmer. “It is important to remember that vaccinations are not only for children. Adults should check with their provider to determine if they are up to date, and this is especially important for older persons and those with other medical conditions who are often at higher risk of bad outcomes if they get an infection. Especially now with the RSV vaccine available for older persons, along with the pneumococcal and shingles vaccines, many potentially serious illnesses can be prevented in those at greatest risk.” 

“As always, we recommend that you talk with your medical provider to determine which vaccines are right for you.” 

For additional information on vaccines, including how to schedule an appointment and find a provider, visit www.scdhec.gov/vaccinations.  

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