COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – Parents all across South Carolina are getting their kids ready to head back to school later this month or next.

State health officials are recommending getting your child fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the start of the new school year.

About 1 in 5 children between the ages of 5-11 have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in South Carolina officials say. DHEC is reporting about 17% of children in that age group are fully vaccinated.

“We know these vaccines are safe and their effective,” said DHEC Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler. “We can keep the spread down and help keep everyone in school, work and enjoying our lives.”

According to DHEC data, only about 1.2% of children under 5 have started their vaccination series.

Pediatricians said the vaccine can help prevent serious illness and protect your child from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome also known as MIS-C.

Dr. Robin LaCroix is the Medical Director for Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in the Upstate. She said right now they are seeing an rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases.

“Sports teams are starting up. Swim team is starting up…kids are in more congregate settings. It does appear this is a very efficient virus at transmitting itself person to person,” Dr. LaCroix said.

To find a vaccination site near you can use DHEC’s vaccine locator or by calling their CARE Line at (855) 472-3432.