DHEC adds some parents to COVID-19 vaccine Phase 1A, but there’s confusion

Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 3:43 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - This week, state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell announced a new group of people would be added to Phase 1A of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out which means they can get it immediately.

“The parents who serve as home caregivers for children who are medically fragile, or complex or severely disabled can be vaccinated now in Phase 1,” Bell said. “This, this would not include the parents of children who have a chronic condition like diabetes or asthma or who are have special needs because they are hearing impaired or something like that. And for these parents to be vaccinated, they would have to get a signed attestation from a healthcare provider for their children to confirm that the parent meets the criteria.”

This statement was added to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s vaccine website and the Medical University of South Carolina’s Phase 1A website. However, when parent Heather Mahoney called MUSC to ask what documentation she needed to bring, the woman on the other end of the line said there was a mistake.

“She was like, ‘I am so sorry to tell you this, we’ve been getting phone calls from parents all morning. And it’s just really unfortunate because it was a mix-up...it’s just employed, caregivers that would qualify under this category but not parents of caregivers to their own children’,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney’s daughter Isabella is two years old and has Neutrophil Immunodeficiency Syndrome. She has a mutation on her Rac2 gene which gives her a low-functioning immune system and is at high risk for infection.

Because children can’t get the COVID-19 vaccine right now Mahoney said parents of immunocompromised children should be near the top of the list.

“So we’re praying as parents, that we can certainly be in front of the general public... I really do honestly feel like parents of sick children should be at the top because, otherwise, I mean we can only do so much to help,” she added. Mahoney said she has reached out to her daughter’s primary care doctor and is looking for clarification.

DHEC officials told Live 5 News a doctor would try to clarify this in a press conference on Friday afternoon. When asked for clarification, DHEC’s Interim Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler said, “We have more information, some more clear guidance and a screening tool that is being developed and being worked on. That is coming out of our vaccine Advisory Committee.”

When asked if parents or caregivers of medically fragile adults would qualify she was not sure.

“I am not certain about looking at the older population, the seniors who are, and their caregivers, but again, I expect that that more specific guidance from [the Vaccine Advisory Committee] will be coming out in the coming days,” Traxler added.

When asked the same question Bell said, “I think we’ll look at the intent there because what we discussed is that if there was the loss of a caregiver, we did say for medically fragile children, but if that was any other person who lost their caregiver and would be at increased risk, I think we need to look at the intent, the spirt, and not the specifics. But we’ll revisit that.”

While parents and caregivers still wait for exact guidance, MUSC gave Mahoney the green light to get vaccinated in a few days.

“We are beyond excited for extra protection for our family and all the other families who need to protect their children!” she said.

Live 5 News reached out to MUSC and a spokesperson said, “It also depends on the condition and I think that’s what’s confusing some folks – being a parent of a child with a health condition of any kind does not qualify them; for example, a child may have asthma, but that does not necessarily make them medically fragile or complex/severely disabled. They should touch base with their child’s care provider to help determine if they qualify, as they may also be asked to show a doctor’s note at time of vaccination that confirms a child’s medically fragile or complex/severe diagnosis.”

You can see who qualifies to get the vaccine right now (Phase 1A) by clicking: here.

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