CCU professor says DHEC’s vaccine rollout process meets ethical guidelines

CCU professor says DHEC’s vaccine rollout process meets ethical guidelines
CCU professor says DHEC’s vaccine rollout process meets ethical guidelines (Source: stock video from oasis)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County resident MaryAnn Carruthers is 70 years old and part of Phase 1a in the state’s vaccination rollout. After a rocky start, she’s fully vaccinated.

Carruthers - a retired medical worker - says it’s important state leaders do all they can to ensure shots are reaching the arms of those vulnerable to the virus in all groups.

“I can feel people’s frustration with not being able to get a vaccination,” Carruthers said.

It’s an issue that was raised Wednesday during the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Vaccine Advisory Committee meeting.

Earlier this week, DHEC announced providers will begin moving into Phase 1b on Monday, March 8. That means more than two million people will be added to the state’s vaccine list. During the VAC session, medical leaders say they’re working to ensure the distribution process is ethical, as they move from Phase 1a to Phase 1b.

”There were so many restrictions on Phase 1a, [it] actually limited access to certain populations,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell. “[Such as] if they were not working as health care workers, or not in nursing homes or not in that age group. Once we do roll this out to a broader population, if we continue to see those disparities [during Phase 1b], that will make it clear there are some systemic issues to address in access.”

But some in the community question if DHEC’s framework for allocating the vaccine is ethical, raising questions as to why some groups are just now becoming eligible to get their shot in the arm.

WMBF News brought those concerns to Coastal Carolina University professor Julinna Oxley, who specializes in ethics.

Oxley says the state’s allocation plan is ethical. She says it’s important for people to understand DHEC’s vaccination plan is rooted in ways to get a scarce resource, like the COVID-19 vaccine, to the most at-risk and vulnerable population. When it comes down to ethics of the distribution, Oxley says medical leaders are using clear set of principals to guide their decision making process.

She says the public outcry to open up vaccinations to other groups may have contributed to state leaders moving along to Phase 1b and making more people eligible.

“For members of the public to say hey what about us, we have preexisting conditions,” Oxley said. “We’ve been waiting for a really long time and people in other states have already gotten these vaccines. I think that’s very very important because that gives government an opportunity to be responsive.”

But one area Oxley says could be crossing the ethical line is vaccine tourism, whether it’s ethical for people to cross state lines to get the vaccine instead of waiting their turn in the Palmetto State.

“I think at the end of the day it’s not the right thing to do. It’s sort of cheating the system as it were, you’re kind of jumping in line,” Oxley said. “The problem with that, it messes up each state’s planning phase. It’s makes it harder for them to plan if people are not going in the order they’re anticipating them going.”

Carruthers added that she’s pleased Gov. Henry McMaster showed up to a mass vaccination clinic that was held inside of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center Wednesday afternoon.

She said the events will help to speed up the amount of people receiving doses, and she’s glad state leaders are on board and showing their support.

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