CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The confusion continues to grow as the vaccination rollout expands to encompass a new group of people, but not a new phase in the established plan.
Gov. Henry McMaster announced Monday a departure from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended approach of vaccinating certain groups in phases. The governor and the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced any one over the age of 70 could schedule an appointment to receive a vaccine starting Wednesday.
People in the first phase, Phase 1A, are still being vaccinated and many were told to schedule their appointments before the end of the week or risk losing their early access to the vaccine. Phase 1A primarily includes healthcare workers, while people over the age of 75 are in phase 1B and everyone over 65 is in phase 1C.
The chief medical officer at Trident Health, Dr. Lee Biggs, says they will not be ready to start vaccinating the 70+ group on Wednesday. He says they are currently focused on getting everyone in 1A inoculated. Specifically, they are hosting walk-in vaccination clinics for 1A members who do not work for their hospital.
“Anybody who is a healthcare worker that wants a dose can show up at Trident Medical Center and get that dose with no waiting and no need to schedule an appointment weeks from now. You can get your vaccine today,” Biggs said. “We will ask if you have an identification badge with your organization that shows who you are, what you do or if you maintain a license in the state, what that licensure is in. That’s as simple as it gets.”
Biggs says they can do about 90 vaccines an hour and they expect to go through nearly 3,000 doses by the end of the week. The clinic is open Tuesday through Friday from 7a.m. to 6 p.m. this week only.
The governor’s announcement to allow people not in 1A get vaccinated has complicated the lines of communication and added a new layer of confusion as to who, when, where, and how a person can receive a vaccination.
“It was an unanticipated vaccine direction that no one had built anything to fill that need,” Biggs said, suggesting many hospitals will not be able to offer the vaccine to the new group by Wednesday. “We are focusing on aggressively meeting the governor’s mandate last week to get everybody in phase 1A completed by Jan. 15, which is this Friday.”
Biggs says the messaging is further confused by neighboring states vaccinating different groups of people.
“Obviously it’s going to be counterproductive if South Carolina is following plan X and Georgia or North Carolina are on plan Y. Because of the proximity, people are going to ask, ‘What’s the difference?’” Biggs said. “I think it is incumbent upon those in state leadership to provide that answer. My job is to vaccinate as many people as I can, in the order that I am so designated.”
The Medical University of South Carolina will be able offer vaccinations for the 70+ group. However, they say communication continues to be hurdle.
“Communication is definitely a challenge as the information changes daily, we are trying to communicate directly to our patients and the public as much and as often as we can,” MUSC said in a statement.
Recently, MUSC sent a link to help healthcare workers outside their system schedule vaccination appointments. The link was not intended to be shared but it was and many people not in 1A took it as way to get on the list to be vaccinated.