COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State health officials have come up with a plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s approved and available.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control submitted the plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services on Friday.
Officials say the goal of the plan is to make sure there is “equitable distribution” of the vaccine “based on the most current federal guidance and recommendations.”
When the vaccine is first approved and available, there will be a limited supply, DHEC says.
Under the state’s plan, the first people to receive the vaccine will be groups identified to be most at-risk, including front-line medical workers and nursing home residents.
The vaccine supply is expected to increase in 2021 and more people in the public will have access to it at that time.
“Safety is the top priority in any vaccine development and no vaccine will be released until it has undergone the rigorous scientific and clinical testing that’s required as part of all vaccine development,” Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina State Epidemiologist, said. “Scientists had already begun research for coronavirus vaccines during previous outbreaks caused by related coronaviruses, and that earlier research provided a head start for rapid development of vaccines to protect against infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Multiple state departments worked together to develop the plan, including DHEC, the Emergency Management Division, the National Guard, hospital officials, state law enforcement, and more.
In a teleconference on Friday, DHEC Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said there is no timeline between the phases.
“The federal government will make decisions about the allocations of the available vaccines to each state. How long we remain in one phase will be dependent on that vaccine production,” she said.
Bell said it’s expected the vaccine will require two doses three to four weeks apart.
Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said the vaccination of school-age children is still a ways off.
“Certainly, we want to vaccinate school children as well, but the initial studies were done with adults. So until we have a vaccine safety and efficacy information for children, it’s hard to say when that vaccine will become available,” she said.