College of Charleston officials have not ordered unvaccinated students to leave campus during a mumps outbreak.
At least one local TV news outlet has reported that unvaccinated students were asked to leave the college for 25 days.
"Based on the current status of the outbreak, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and DHEC are not recommending that College of Charleston remove students from campus to prevent further mumps cases," said College of Charleston spokesman Ron Menchaca.
"Even vaccinated students can become infected with mumps, so exclusion may not be effective in preventing additional cases."
Three positive cases of the disease were confirmed by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Monday. DHEC declared the cluster of cases an "outbreak." The cases involved both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, DHEC confirmed Wednesday.
"The nationwide issue of mumps outbreaks in young adults indicates that some are experiencing waning immunity to mumps years after vaccination," DHEC spokesman Chris Delcamp said.
Before College of Charleston students start school, they are required to either provide updated vaccination information or supply a waiver notifying the college that they refuse to be vaccinated. Following the outbreak, the college announced it would be reaching out to all unvaccinated students.
A College of Charleston spokesman confirmed earlier this week that 196 students had filed vaccination waivers with the school. The school maintains medical files for 12,000 individuals, according to a college representative.
A spokesman for DHEC explained the department believes the mumps vaccine is still the best protection against the virus even though some vaccinated people will get infected when the virus is introduced. The agency emphasized this week that people who are vaccinated may face less severe disease compared to those who have not been vaccinated.
Vaccinated individuals also are less likely to spread the mumps to other people, making vaccinations effective in limiting the spread of an outbreak.
Dr. Elizabeth Mack, the division director of pediatric critical care at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the mumps vaccine (part of MMR) is highly effective and safe and is recommended as part of the childhood vaccination series. For the MMR vaccine, two doses are recommended.
The first is advised between the ages of 12 and 15 months. The second is recommended between the ages of 4 and 6 years.
"The best coverage is obtained with both vaccines," she said.
The College of Charleston will provide MMR vaccines at a special clinic on Wednesday and Thursday of this week at the Stern Center on the fourth floor. The clinic will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on both days.