Thousands of vaccine-eligible S.C. residents don’t have driver’s licenses, prompting access concerns

Updated: Feb. 11, 2021 at 7:31 PM EST
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Thousands of vaccine-eligible South Carolina residents don’t have a license and others can’t get themselves to vaccine appointments, so now some are asking the state for help.

“In McClellanville, you got a lot of people who don’t have transportation. They gladly see our taxpayer money, but we haven’t seen it in action,” 75-year-old Thomas Williams said.

The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control has not publicly laid out a plan to help get seniors to vaccination sites or get the vaccine to people who can’t easily leave their homes. The agency has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

“We need help in McClellanville,” Williams said of the rural town on the outskirts of Charleston County. “I’m crying out.”

As of Monday, South Carolina residents aged 65 and older could schedule vaccine appointments, but an estimated 46,000 of them don’t have a license.

Based on the most recent estimates of census data, there are about 937,000 residents aged 65 and older living in South Carolina, making up about 18 percent of the state’s total population. According to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, about 890,600 of that same age group currently have an active license.

Trident Area Agency on Aging is a not-for-profit organization that provides assistance, advocacy and answers on aging to residents in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester County. It acts like a regional office for the state’s Department of Aging, and over the past few months, they’ve received a number of calls about transportation.

“We do recognize there are transportation providers, Executive Director Stephanie Blunt said. ”However, they may have certain eligibility requirements, be limited geographically, or be cost prohibitive, especially for seniors living in the rural communities. What we encourage them to do is give our office a call, so that we can have that one-on-one conversation with them, so we can match them with the best transportation provider that meets their needs.”

The agency can be reached on its website or by calling (843) 554-2275.

Williams also brought up concerns about people who are homebound or may not be able to easily leave their house.

“Some of these people are in wheelchairs. Some can’t walk,” Williams said. “How about the ones who are in bed and bed-ridden? So that person has to have someone come to the house to give them the vaccination, but you don’t have anything like that here. From 65 and up, they’re in need of the shot, but there’s nobody to give the shot.”

The AARP of South Carolina released a statement this week saying the state needs to make mobile clinics more accessible and develop new, critical modes of providing in-home vaccination to homebound individuals.

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