CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control say the first phase of COVID-19 vaccines could be delivered at health sites in the state in about two weeks.
Health officials held a live meeting on Thursday afternoon in which they gave an expected timeline of between Dec. 14 through the Dec. 16 for the first delivery of vaccines to the state. DHEC officials said they anticipate the initial vaccines will be under Pfizer.
“We continue to anticipate that South Carolina, like other states, will have these initial allocations of vaccine before the end of this month,” said Dr. Linda Bell with DHEC.
DHEC officials said this first allocation of vaccines will go to health care workers, followed by people at long term health facilities.
According to Bell, the initial supply of vaccines to South Carolina will be limited at the beginning, but as the manufacturing of the vaccine increases, the state is expected to receive repeated shipments on a regular basis.
“So everyone who wants to receive a vaccine in South Carolina will eventually be vaccinated,” Bell said. “Very high coverage is our ultimate goal. But we’ll need to do this in a phased approach because of the limitations. We’ll have to vaccinate those who are most vulnerable first.”
Currently, there are nearly 200 licensed vaccine providers throughout the state who have completed an enrollment process to administer the vaccine. In terms of reaching rural communities, health officials said they are exploring non-traditional vaccine sites in community settings.
“We will make the vaccine available in our DHEC clinics and other potentially temporary sites where we may be able to offer mass vaccination clinics,” Bell said. “And we are working to assure that any medically underserved areas that the vaccine will be available.”
DHEC officials said the initial phase for vaccine distribution is for frontline workers in health care settings since they are the ones at highest risk of contracting COVID-19. According to Bell, the distribution to those workers is the department’s way of protecting healthcare facilities and health care workers so that they can protect others.
The state health department is also recommending prioritizing those in long term health care facilities.
Bell said that the early supplies of the vaccine will not get the state out of the pandemic quickly enough, and stressed the public to use prevention methods which state health officials have been advocating throughout the year.
“We don’t want everybody to forget the primary prevention measures that are available to all of us now,” Bell said. “Everyone should have access to a mask. Everyone can practice physical distancing. And these are evidence-based effective measures and preventing the spread of disease.”
DHEC officials also brought up the fact that we’re moving into flu season, and urged people to get vaccinated.
“To the extent that we can control flu is another measure to help us protect our healthcare systems and our health care providers and to protect your own health as we move into flu season,” Bel said.
Bell said she was very concerned regarding the burden of the health care system as the disease trajectory goes up.
“We need to continue to use those primary prevention measures to fight the spread of covid and flu,” she said.