After slow start, Saluda clinic now scrambling to give vaccinations with help from DHEC

After slow start, Saluda clinic now scrambling to give vaccinations with help from DHEC

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Things are picking up at the Emmanuel Family Clinic in Saluda.

On Monday, Feb. 8, Office Manager Debra Cleveland told WIS her team had only been able to administer 1 dose out of the 400 it had been given over the previous three weeks.

The clock was ticking, as 199 of the doses were nearing their expiration.

She said the online-based federal scheduling system VAMS had crippled the rollout.

“There are a lot of people who do not know how to read, how to write,” she said. “There are people who have other languages, a lot of the people, especially 70 or above, are people who have no computers, who have never worked on a computer in their life. They have no idea what to do.”

Cleveland said at the time her team would be moving to a paper-based model and would be submitting the data for patients into VAMS.

As of noon on Feb. 10, Cleveland told WIS her staff had administered almost 100 doses, and is no longer concerned about any expirations.

“We’ve had people from Charleston, North Augusta, Greenville, Lexington and Columbia, and these are big places you could think they could easily get the vaccine there, but they’re coming here,” she said.

She credited the story from WIS for driving demand, and the Department of Health and Environmental Control for improving the clinic’s system.

In an email to WIS, spokesperson Laura Renwick said the clinic reached out to DHEC on Monday for help, and the department was able to make the facility a “third-party clinic.”

The DHEC system simplified registration for patients, whereas previously they would have had to go through VAMS.

Cleveland said the clinic has been able to offer a more simplified questionnaire, and the system also put the clinic in a position where it can accept walk-ins.

“People will come in and say, ‘we heard y’all have the shots, can we get one?’ And I’m like, ‘do you fall in this criteria? Yes? No problem, have a seat,’” she said.

Saluda resident Elaine Langford said she scheduled an appointment with Emmanuel on Tuesday after watching the WIS story.

“I think we all need it. We need to protect ourselves, we need to protect each other,” she said.

Cleveland cautioned that the number of doses for “walk-ins” are limited, and as of noon on Feb. 10 she said her clinic had roughly 100 appointments.

In a call with journalists on Wednesday, DHEC Senior Deputy for Public Health Nick Davidson said the department is weighing the future of VAMS in the state.

He said the program has made improvements, and it’s unclear if the state will continue to use it or implement a state-created scheduling program that it’s currently piloting.

To find a vaccination appointment, DHEC offers a map of available clinics and has a hotline for appointment information at 1-866-365-8110.

Copyright 2021 WIS. All rights reserved.