Health officials aim to ramp up large-scale vaccinations for people ages 70 and up

Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 8:40 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Over 140,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in South Carolina, but more than 160,000 South Carolinians already have an appointment and are still waiting for their turn.

Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) gave an update on Friday, saying that they’re working with their partners to get large-scale vaccinations for those over 70 years old ramped up as quickly as possible.

Prisma Health announced on Friday they would open two large scale vaccination sites, one in Columbia and the other in Greenville, beginning on Monday. The site in Columbia is located on National Guard Road in Columbia. A trial run for the site took place on Friday, with dozens of south Carolinians over 70 getting the vaccine right from their cars.

“I believe the doctors are doing all they can, so we have to do our part,” said Thelma Matthews, one of the South Carolina residents to receive the vaccine through the drive-thru testing site on Friday.

“I’m really overwhelmed to see her take this vaccine,” Nakell Matthews, Thelma’s grand-daughter added.

Prisma officials said vaccinations will only be available to those who have an appointment that has been scheduled through the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management system. Dr. Saria Saccocio, Prisma Health’s Chief Medical Officer & Co-lead of the Prisma Vaccine Task Force, said on Friday the large-scale vaccination sites are a measure to help the hospital increase the number of vaccinations they are administering daily over the next few weeks.

“With the additional sites in place, we expect to administer as many as 10,000 shots every day by the end of next week,” Dr. Saccocio said.

DHEC’s interim director Dr. Brannon Traxler gave a vaccine update on Friday saying they are working to continue to onboard providers to speed up the vaccination process, but currently demand is greater than the supply of the vaccine.

“It’s important to understand that the flow of vaccine is from federal government, and it’s not sufficient to reach the growing demand at this time,” Traxler said. “South Carolina currently receives approximately 63,000 doses of vaccines each week from the federal government, typically at the beginning of each week. 100% of COVID-19 vaccines have now been or are scheduled to be put into the arms of South Carolinians.”

Traxler said the state will most likely continue to receive the allotment of 63,000 vaccine doses each week until the end of January. DHEC says they currently have 177 sites ready to begin vaccinations.

“To date, DHEC has 177 activated sites, meaning they are currently able to receive vaccines,” Traxler said. “We have 879 approved sites, meaning they are ready and waiting to be activated as soon as more vaccines become available.”

Only a few dozen locations on DHEC’s vaccine locator are currently open to book appointments. Dr. Traxler said this is because they either don’t have any vaccines to administer yet or don’t have any available appointments left.

Traxler said they are working with the CDC to determine South Carolina’s vaccine allotment per capita compared to other states.

She said that, if the current allotment of 63,000 vaccine doses per week continues, it will most likely be a few months until the state moves into Phase 1B.

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