Some SC first responders, others in phase 1a still waiting for COVID-19 vaccine

Updated: Dec. 29, 2020 at 11:16 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina is still early in phase 1a of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution, but some people who fall under that first category are wondering when they will be able to get the shot.

Tuesday, some first responders in Batesburg-Leesville received their vaccinations. Several members of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department were also able to get vaccinated Tuesday. However, other agencies, like Columbia Fire, say they’re still waiting to be contacted by DHEC.

“For those within 1a, it’s coming, more and more each week,” explained DHEC interim director, Dr. Brannon Traxler. “We will communicate with you. It just does take some time to get this many tens of thousands of vaccines into the state and administered.”

If you are in phase 1a and have not yet been contacted to receive the shot, DHEC says do not contact hospitals to be vaccinated. Dr. Traxler says DHEC is activating new vaccine sites every week, and you can expect to hear from your employer or the agency directly when it’s your turn.

As of Tuesday, nearly 200,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna doses have arrived in South Carolina. More than 31,000 frontline health care workers have received the Moderna shot, and CVS and Walgreens have begun administering the nearly 85,000 Moderna vaccines allocated for long term care facilities.

“I think it’s been very encouraging so far,” said Dr. Traxler. “I’ve been very pleased by the number of people we’re hearing that are willing to get vaccinated who are in these first groups in phase 1a who are eligible for vaccination. I’ve also been very pleased with the logistics and how things have gone both in terms of us receiving the vaccine and in terms of us helping to redistribute to some of the smaller facilities and sites that are getting them.”

While the first doses of the vaccine were delivered to hospitals and CVS and Walgreens for long-term care facilities, as more shipments arrive, DHEC says it’s looking to onboard outpatient care clinics and other pharmacies in the state with vaccines.

“We are going to make sure there’s a vaccine available by the summer for everyone who wants to receive it is our goal,” Dr. Traxler noted.

DHEC notes they need 70 percent of the population will need to get the vaccine to achieve herd immunity, and until that happens, Dr. Traxler is urging everyone to keep their guard up.

“We need everybody during these winter months, especially as we’re still going through the holiday season and are seeing the counts and the hospitalizations and deaths so high, we really need everyone to be doing those things that we know help prevent the spread of the virus,” Dr. Traxler explained.

Right now, Dr. Traxler believes phase 1 will last through the winter and potentially early spring. She says phase two could start in the spring, and phase three could begin by the summer.

DHEC has not received any reports of significant allergic reactions or any other concerns about the vaccine so far.

Dr. Traxler says South Carolina’s Vaccine Advisory Committee will soon meet to finalize phase 1b of distribution, which could happen as early as next week. That group could include other first responders, corrections officers, and teachers.

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