Rural healthcare systems work to bring vaccines to ‘pharmacy deserts’

Updated: Mar. 8, 2021 at 6:46 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - From limited internet, to educating people about various vaccines for the coronavirus, healthcare systems in rural parts of South Carolina are pushing to find effective ways to give out as many coronavirus vaccines as they can.

Leaders with St. James Health in McClellanville call the area a “pharmacy desert,” with people having to travel a half and hour in any direction to reach a major pharmacy carrying covid vaccines.

“People are having to go to Georgetown or to Mount Pleasant, or Charleston proper, or possibly even Berkeley County in order to get vaccines at a pharmacy,” Chief Medical officer Dr. Dawn H. Clancy said. “Because we do not have a dedicated pharmacy in this area.”

That’s where health systems like hers step in as the only place for miles to reach people with limited internet access or transportation.

“All the employees at St. James are working very hard, they are working overtime in order to get patients vaccinated,” Clancy said. “This is a labor of love. We are here to take care of the community and the patients.”

Outreach coordinator Linda Lynah said word-of-mouth is the most effective way to get people critical information about the vaccine and upcoming available appointments.

“The thing that is unique in rural areas is helping people to feel comfortable because a lot of people don’t feel comfortable with being able to take the vaccine,” Lynah said.

That’s why she personally leaves flyers with local churches, political parties and the NAACP to get people connected.

“One of the ways in which we to reach out to people is two churches we will send out flyers to the head person at the church,” Lynah said. “Whatever agency that has connections with other people then that’s what we use.”

St. James Health has two upcoming vaccine clinics by appointment only on Thursday and Saturday.

Anyone interested can reach out by calling 843-887-3274 ext.122 or 843-344-3607.

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