DHEC leaders focused on making sure rural communities aren’t overlooked in vaccine rollout

DHEC leaders focused on making sure rural communities aren’t overlooked in vaccine rollout

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As scientists detect both the UK and South African variants of COVID-19 in South Carolina, health leaders from DHEC are focused on how to improve the vaccine rollout.

“The difficulty as always is the very limited supply of vaccines we have right now. We don’t have enough vaccines right now for everyone who’s in Phase 1A, currently,” said Dr. Michael Kacka from DHEC.

DHEC leaders fielded questions Monday on a teleconference regarding who’s included in Phase 1A, and who are not specifically teachers.

State health leaders have faced criticism about where teachers fall on the list when it comes to getting vaccines, as many still have to come to school for face-to-face learning. Health leaders say Phase 1A was designed to limit morbidity and mortality, which is why they focused first on health care workers and those in long-term care facilities.

“Teachers are obviously very important frontline workers who may be at risk of exposure, and we do take that under consideration,” Kacka said. “The problem is we still have several weeks of 1A to go because of the limited supply of the vaccine.”

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For those who do fall in Phase 1A, many don’t live in or have transportation to the larger cities where we’ve seen mass vaccination sites.

DHEC leaders say they want to make sure that low-income and low access communities aren’t falling through the cracks when it comes to distribution.

“One of our big partners will be the federally qualified health centers, the FQHCs, as they begin to distribute vaccines,” Kacka said. “We’ll be able to get more vaccine into these communities that have been traditionally underserved. An additional partner for us will be the rural clinics.”

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