COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - People in South Carolina who are 65 and older will be able to make appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, Feb. 8, officials announced Wednesday.
Anyone who is 65 and up -- regardless of preexisting conditions -- will be eligible.
This change is possible due to an increase in vaccine doses being supplied to the state, the Department of Health and Environmental Control said. However, officials said the supply of the vaccine “remains limited for the time being.”
Gov. Henry McMaster has been urging DHEC to make this change to prioritize those 65 and older above teachers and other essential workers in phase 1b.
“We have a moral and ethical duty to first vaccinate the South Carolinians who are at the highest risk of dying from the virus,” McMaster said. “At this time, placing a younger person between a senior citizen and what could be their lifesaving shot would be unconscionable and irresponsible.”
Most educators agree that our state’s seniors should be eligible for a COVID vaccine.
“Those 65 and up absolutely need access because they are more vulnerable to having significant health complications,” said Patrick Kelly, director of governmental affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association.
But with Governor McMaster continuing to push for face-to-face learning, teachers believe they too should be eligible for the shots.
“We need to give educators vaccine access, so we can realize the promise of five days a week face to face instruction, as the governor has been pushing for,” said Kelly. “Without it, staffing levels will continue to be an issue.”
Kelly notes on Tuesday, his Richland Two school had 18 teachers out sick, but could only find five substitutes.
“What happened to the other 13 classes, they either got sprinkled into other teachers’ classes, which drives up the number of bodies in a room, which is exactly what we want to avoid right now,” Kelly explained. “Or those classes went to the school’s auditorium, which provides a large space, but what can’t happen in that environment is instruction.”
In a statement, Governor McMaster said Wednesday’s action will “save lives and allow our teachers to be vaccinated next.” But teachers who have already been waiting say that’s not enough.
“We need to start scheduling our teachers right now,” noted Kelly. “If teachers are up next, let’s build a schedule. Let’s come up with a distribution plan because what we don’t need to have happen is two to three weeks from now teachers are up next, but we don’t have a system in place to get the vaccine into arms.”
After this change to move those 65 and older to the front of the line, DHEC will evaluate the number of appointments made and the vaccine supply in an effort to expedite access to the vaccine for those in phase 1b, officials said.
Governor McMaster and State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman will hold a news conference Thursday at 10 a.m. to discuss vaccination distribution plans for teachers once they become eligible.
- 81.7% of COVID-19 deaths in South Carolina have been among those 65 and older
- The average age for COVID-19-related deaths in SC is 75
- There are approximately 309,000 South Carolinians between the ages of 65 and 69
- SC has received 777,250 vaccines and has given 439,888 shots as of Wednesday
- 382,695 South Carolinians have scheduled vaccine appointments
- The state currently has 458 activated COVID-19 vaccine sites
Beginning Feb. 8, those 65 and older who want to make an appointment can find resources to do so on DHEC’s website. For more information, click or tap here. People will be asked for ID verification of their age to prove their eligibility.
Those who need help can also call DHEC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Information Line at 1-866-365-8110 to find vaccine providers and their contact information to schedule an appointment.