‘An extraordinary moment in history’: DHEC gives update on COVID vaccine rollout

Updated: Dec. 15, 2020 at 9:25 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Frontline workers in South Carolina are now getting the coronavirus vaccine, with Tuesday marking the beginning of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Phase 1A vaccine roll-out plan.

“This is just an extraordinary moment in history,” Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said.

Kelly said that this week’s initial rollout is a multiple day process with three facilities receiving the vaccine Monday, 12 receiving it Tuesday, and a few more receiving their shipment Wednesday. By the end of the week, 43,000 doses of the vaccine will be in facilities across the state.

Kelly said that they expect to receive a shipment of vaccines each week moving forward, bringing the total number of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in South Carolina to between 200,000 to 300,000 by the end of the year.

“We should receive 200,000 to 300,000 doses of vaccine by the end of the year, but that depends upon several things,” Dr. Kelly said. “That also takes into consideration that the Moderna vaccine will receive emergency use authorization, which we think it will, but that’s not confirmed yet. But also that there’s no problems with the delivery of the Pfizer vaccine; that’s the one that needs to be super cold.”

Right now, they are just focusing on vaccinating healthcare workers, but officials are hoping to begin vaccinating nursing home residents and those in long-term care facilities before the end of December.

“It’s not just a matter of protecting those workers but protecting the system,” Kelly said. “I’m hearing about nursing shortages, not just hospital bed shortages, but staffing shortages.”

She said the speed of the rollout depends partly on the approval of the Moderna vaccine, as well as people’s willingness to get the vaccine.

Kelly added the Moderna approval could come by the end of this week, with the FDA potentially giving it emergency use authorization. However, she warned it’s going to take some time before there’s widespread distribution.

“As Dr. Fauci says, the cavalry is here; however, we need to roll this out over several months because we don’t have enough vaccine initially to cover everyone,” Kelly said. “As we get more vaccines, we will be able to vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated, but it’s going to take some time.”

She said the first shipments of the Moderna vaccine could reach South Carolina around the week of Christmas.

Kelly also said one concern for DHEC has been making sure its easily available to rural communities once the vaccine is more widely available. She said that they have over 400 providers signed up to administer the vaccine, including chains like CVS and Walgreens that are in many rural communities.

The FDA released documents on Tuesday finding that the Moderna vaccine is highly effective. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is meeting on Thursday to decide whether to recommend the Moderna vaccine receive emergency use authorization.

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