SC governor announces COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered to state this month
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As cases in South Carolina continue to rise, Governor Henry McMaster announced that the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control will begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine this month.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the first group (Phase 1-A) to receive the vaccine are those in healthcare settings at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19. That includes:
- Physicians’ assistants
- Nurses’ aides
- Physical therapists
- Respiratory therapists
- Speech pathologists
- Medical students and nursing students
- Nursing home and long-term care facility residents and staff
- Medical personnel in correctional facilities, jails, and detention centers
- Medical emergency first responders such as:
- Home health and hospice workers
The governor noted that there would be an estimated allotment of 200,000 to 300,000 doses delivered to the state in the first delivery. According to the head of immunizations for DHEC, Dr. Stephen White, these are all considered first-round doses of the vaccine. White explained the vaccine being rolled out now requires two shots and the federal government will be sending “booster” shots for the hundreds of thousands of people who received one of the initial doses afterward.
However, McMaster cautioned that the distribution of the vaccine would not be done quickly.
“I want to caution everyone this will not be a fast process,” McMaster said. “I want to caution everyone this will be a slow process all over the country. Most South Carolinians will not be vaccinated for months. So, we’ve got to keep our guard up. Now’s not the time to let our guard down.”
Health leaders also said they don’t think they will receive enough of the vaccine at first to give a shot to everyone who makes up this initial group.
Instead, the organizations receiving the doses will need to decide who needs the vaccine most at this time.
“What we do understand is initially we won’t have enough supply, and this is why there is the need about the difficult decision about who will get it first,” State epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said.
As people wait for a vaccine, McMaster urged South Carolina residents to follow the best practices that have been discussed in previous briefings in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“What we need to do now is determine that we’re going to follow those best practices and keep the spread of this virus down: wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible, washing your hands routinely, being courteous to others, courteous to your family members, courteous to visitors, courteous to your customers,” McMaster said. “Go outside, get fresh air, keep your windows open, but follow those rules that have been stated so often that we’ve all memorized them by now.”
However, the governor did not say he will announce any new executive orders or restrictions because of the rising cases.
Dr. Bell stressed the state is potentially headed for a dire situation if people don’t start social distancing and wearing masks.
“If we are able to implement 95% use of masks within the next week, by April, we could avert 1,000 deaths. Within 4-6 weeks of this level of mask usage, we would see a significant change in our trajectory,” Bell said.
State leaders stressed no steps were skipped in the making and testing of the vaccine and they’re encouraging all members of the public to take it. But even once the vaccine is in the arms of South Carolinians, health experts say the pandemic isn’t over.
“We must be careful not to stumble at the end of this marathon. This marathon ends not when we give the first vaccine, but the last vaccine,” Medical University of South Carolina President Dr. David Cole said.
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