COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is urging hospitals across the state to speed up the process of administering the COVID-19 vaccine.
Speaking Monday afternoon from Lexington Medical Center in Columbia, which he said has a “Chick-Fil-A-type assembly line,” the governor said the hospital shelves need to be empty by the time a new shipment of vaccine arrives.
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“The old shipment ought to be in somebody’s arm, and that’s not happening now. And it needs to happen,” McMaster said.
The governor referenced a joint order issued last week by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation that expands the number of medical professionals who can administer the vaccine to include retired nurses and doctors.
According to McMaster, if necessary, they will have hospitals that do not have the personnel and can’t get them to come in to cut their elective surgeries to free up some staff to administer the vaccine.
“The faster the hospitals start giving the shots, the sooner we can expand this group to those perhaps 65 and older, because we know it is the older people who are the most susceptible to serious illness as well as death,” McMaster said.
The governor said that, so far, S.C. has not seen any deaths due to COVID-19 in those between the ages of a year old and 19 years old.
“That’s why this vaccine, by the federal rule, is not available for those under 18 years old, because the young people are not the ones suffering,” McMaster said, citing statistics stating that 87.5% of COVID-19 deaths are 61 and older.
McMaster said his understanding is S.C. was allocated roughly 822,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, with the majority going to the hospitals. He added that 245,000 doses are going to pharmacies, doctor’s offices and long-term care facilities, and are just coming online.
As of Jan. 18, the state has received approximately 200,075 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, according to information from DHEC. Of that amount, 108,590 initial doses and 29,201 second doses have been administered for a 69% utilization rate.
On Jan. 13, those in S.C. aged 70 and older were able to begin scheduling appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. State health officials said currently, 100% of vaccines in the state have either been given or are scheduled to be given.
“Our top priority right now is giving those shots, and we’re going to get it done,” McMaster said.
The governor will continue to visit and tour vaccine provider locations in South Carolina on Tuesday. He is scheduled to visit Conway Medical Center’s remote vaccination location along Highway 707 at 11 a.m. WMBF News will be covering the governor’s visit to the vaccination location.