SC health department: ‘Vaccine is our way out of this pandemic’

South Carolina's assistant state epidemiologist urges people to get vaccinated against...
South Carolina's assistant state epidemiologist urges people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, especially as the Delta variant is prompting a wave of new cases.(WIS/File)
Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 11:45 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s assistant state epidemiologist says the Palmetto State is headed in a similar direction to the January surge in new COVID-19 cases.

But Dr. Jane Kelly said Friday the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is not asking people to go on lockdown.

“We’re asking them to think about what they are doing and what things they can change without great sacrifice,” she said. “Wearing a mask is an important thing to do to prevent the spread of the Delta variant.

That variant, first identified in India, has become a global concern because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it has a greater chance of being transmitted to others.

Kelly says in addition to being more easily spreadable, the Delta variant has a much higher viral load and a shorter incubation period, the time you’re exposed to the virus to the time you can become contagious and transmit it to others.

“In an indoor situation, especially a crowded indoor situation, we are asking everyone, even if you are fully vaccinated to mask up,” Kelly said. “The issue is who you might bring the virus back to. Someone in your home, someone in your church, someone in your community.”

Kelly also said the COVID-19 pandemic is “our way to stop the pandemic.”

“Vaccine is our way out of this pandemic. Vaccine is what is going to stop the spread of the Delta variant,” Kelly said. “Right now South Carolina still does not have half of its population over 12 vaccinated. So we are still encouraging vaccination.”

She compared SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to the flu.

“The flu is a good example of a virus that is endemic, comes back every year a little bit different,” she said. “But the flu vaccine saves lives. We’ve drastically decreased the number of people who end up in the hospital or have long term problems with pnemonia and deaths from influenza with the flu shot, with the vaccine. The same thing can be true with COVID 19. Even if it becomes a recurrent circulating virus every year we can get it under control by vaccinating more people.”

Kelly said being vaccinated does not prevent a COVID-19 infection if you are exposed to the virus. But it does protect anyone by providing a good antibody and immune response to prevent a serious illness, she said.

“In terms of staying out of the hospital and out of the morgue, fully vaccinated people are protected,” she said.

The latest data from the CDC shows that 45 of 46 South Carolina counties, including all of the Lowcountry, are considered in the highest level of community transmission of COVID-19.

While 49.9% of the total U.S. population is considered fully vaccinated nationwide, that figure drops to 40.9% for South Carolina.

CDC data states that in the Palmetto State, 77.3% of South Carolinians 65 and older are fully vaccinated. But only 50.3% of those 18 and older and only 47.6% of those 12 or older are fully vaccinated in the state.

One is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they take the second dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after they take the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

As of Thursday, DHEC says it has confirmed more than 631,000 cases and more than 8,700 deaths in South Carolina because of COVID-19.

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