State health dept. holds 1st COVID briefing since vaccine approved for children under 5
Agency also addressed increased COVID levels in state
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said Wednesday it is important that children six months of age and older be vaccinated against COVID-19 now that they have been approved for the vaccine.
DHEC Public Health Director Brannon Traxler led DHEC’s first COVID briefing since the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer for children six months and over. Prior to that EAU, the vaccine had only been approved for children six years of age and older.
“If we can get this age group vaccinated have a strong level that will reinforce protection in the household, in daycare facilities and in classrooms, thereby helping with attendance also in the workplace,” Traxler said.
Traxler said getting young children vaccinated an go a long way in protecting older, more vulnerable members of the community.
DHEC has strongly encouraged parents to talk with their children’s health care provider about the vaccine.
“Having a safe and effective vaccine for this youngest age group is great news for South Carolinians,” DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer said. “While most children experience relatively mild or even no symptoms if they are infected with COVID-19, severe cases and even deaths in young children can occur, and they can easily spread the virus to family members, especially those who are elderly or immunocompromised. Getting this younger age group vaccinated will go a long way in our ongoing efforts to control the impacts of COVID-19 and keep our families safe, especially as we get further into the summer months.”
South Carolina’s initial allocation of COVID-19 vaccine for this age group includes 27,800 doses of Moderna and 27,800 doses of Pfizer. DHEC will be offering these free vaccines at many DHEC vaccine clinics, including health departments.
The agency’s vaccine locator will list the clinics that have the vaccine available and designate them as “6 months to 5 years.” In addition, DHEC is working with pediatricians and other providers to ensure they have a supply if they choose to offer the vaccine for this age group.
DHEC addresses growing COVID levels in state
Traxler said six counties in South Carolina have high COVID levels, according to the latest tracking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The counties listed are Chesterfield, Fairfield, Horry, Lexingrton, Marlboro and Richland, she said.
Another 15 counties are showing medium levels of COVID in the community, she said. Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Williamsburg, Georgetown and Oraneburg Counties are listed in the medium category. Beaufort and Colleton Counties were in the low category as of last Thursday, the most recent day data was released.
“If you live in a county that has medium or high levels, we strongly recommend that you do your part to bring it down to a low level again,” Traxler said. “That means masking in indoor settings if your county has high levels or masking if you’re immunocompromised or otherwise at high risk. If your community is seeing medium levels, if we make these small sacrifices to prevent the spread along with staying up to date on vaccinations and boosters, and staying safe while vacationing, we can all enjoy our summer without seeing COVID-19 wreak the same havoc it has the last two years and we can be well-positioned going into the new school year in colder weather.”
Traxler said the state saw dips in cases and hospitalizations this week compared to the prior several weeks and deaths remained at a low level.
“So we’re on the beginning of the right track. We just need to continue these preventative measures and use good judgment so we can make it out of this recent surge with as little damage as possible,” she said.
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