COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Prisma Health and other major hospitals across the state have said they’re able to vaccinate thousands of South Carolinians a day, but they aren’t getting enough vaccines to reach their full vaccination potential.
On Tuesday, officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said that the problem is not having enough supply of the vaccine to meet the demand.
“We have had a very successful vaccination effort across the state,” DHEC’s acting director Marshall Taylor said. “Especially our hospitals have really stepped up to help and they are getting vaccines into arms.”
“As a state vaccine is moving, but we have a problem though,” Taylor added. “And that is supply of vaccine into the state is significantly insufficient compared to the need and the demand.”
DHEC’s advisory board met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss how vaccine allocation should work to different providers across the state. Advisory board members stressed during the meeting that the number one goal for a system of allocation is to continue to vaccinate as many people as possible, while also making sure all rural communities have access to the vaccine.
“The goal here is shots in arms, correct?” a DHEC advisory board member said. “Logistically, and I understand logistics, it’s easier to get it to the large hubs and get it out because that system is already done.”
DHEC officials presented two models to the board for ways to allocate the nearly 60,000 doses of the vaccine DHEC has been receiving each week. One model was on the basis of capita, meaning vaccines would be allocated by the population size per county. The other model was on the basis of a number of factors including population, how much of the population is over 65, and the counties’ social vulnerabilities index. DHEC officials said the social vulnerabilities index includes things like socioeconomic status and minority status.
“My concern is that rural communities aren’t being serviced when they are at risk,” one DHEC advisory board member said.
The board ultimately voted to select the per capita model for review, saying that DHEC has a few weeks to figure out how the model would be implemented and work with providers to make sure that shots are also getting to rural communities.
“We don’t want to slow down the efficiency of these large providers,” Taylor said. “So, it will give us time to work with those large providers to make sure they can serve those areas with their machines, as well as continuing to work with small providers.”
Taylor added that DHEC didn’t need an allocation model until about two weeks ago, saying that the number of requests has quadrupled from hospitals making it so that DHEC can only currently provide about 25% of the vaccine request coming from each hospital.
The board plans to re-evaluate the model at their next meeting in a little over two weeks. DHEC officials said, by that time, they should have better data collected to portray how well vaccinations in rural communities are going.
As part of their allocation models, DHEC officials recommended having 5% of the weekly vaccine distribution directed to DHEC to redistribute each week in response to any shipment problems to providers.