COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Thursday, state health officials gave an update on what vaccine distribution and administration will look like in South Carolina once the COVID-19 vaccine arrives.
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control officials said that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could receive emergency use authorization as early as December 10, and South Carolina’s vaccine distribution sites could get the first shipment of the vaccine as early as December 14.
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Officials added they have also gotten an estimate on the number of vaccines the state will receive in the Pfizer initial shipment. However, officials warned that it’s most likely going to be months before the vaccine is available to the general population.
“Everyone who wants to receive a vaccine in South Carolina will eventually be vaccinated,” state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said. “Very high coverage is our ultimate goal.”
State health officials say distribution will take place in three phases, but due to limited supply, it will only be available to a select group of people in the beginning.
“We had to think hard about who are the most critical people to vaccinate first to reduce mortality,” Dr. Jane Kelly, assistant state epidemiologist, said.
Officials said Phase 1A will include healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities.
“The ultimate goal is to save lives, and we mean by that all lives, but with initial limited supply, we have to protect those first who have a direct role in saving lives,” Bell said.
Officials said they are still finalizing who will be in the later stages, but as of now, Phase 1B might include other people considered high-risk due to age, health conditions, or living conditions.
Phase 2 will include those in school settings or with health conditions such as diabetes or obesity and Phase 3 will include the entire population.
“The vaccine is ultimately the vaccine that is going to get us out of this pandemic,” Bell said. “But these early supplies will not get us there soon enough.”
Bell stressed that it’s essential for every person to wear a mask and social distance until widespread distribution is possible.
DHEC officials said they have five locations that are capable of storing the vaccine and about 200 administration sites approved.
Officials said that the first shipment of the vaccine will be the Pfizer vaccine but will probably receive a shipment of the Moderna vaccine the week after. Both vaccines will be distributed in South Carolina.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines require two doses.
DHEC officials said that people will receive notifications about getting the second dose as well as a vaccine card.