DHEC board hears plan that would shift vaccine doses to rural counties, away from cities

Updated: Feb. 11, 2021 at 4:58 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Thursday, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s board heard a plan that would dramatically shift the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses throughout the state.

At the request of the board, Senior Deputy for Public Health Nick Davidson presented a model that would base the distribution of vaccine doses off the population within each county.

As a consequence of the plan, most rural counties would see an uptick in doses while urban counties would lose doses.

Davidson explained to the board the dose imbalance was a product of the early vaccine rollout when healthcare workers were prioritized. He said, as a result, doses flowed to urban areas with more healthcare workers.

“It’s not a bias in any direction. We were looking to save those who were saving us, protect those who were saving us,” he said.

Since then, Davidson said the allocation model has been based off supply, dose requests, and how quickly those doses were being utilized.

He presented the board with a side-by-side comparison of the per-capita model with the most recent weekly allocation. It showed rural communities receiving doses below what would be equitable if based on population.

“It’s fair to say that I’m concerned about the counties away from Urban hubs. You can parse the data a lot of different ways, I think we the state have work to do,” he said.

The board appeared receptive to the idea of per capita distribution but postponed judgment until its next meeting.

The board asked Davidson to return with a breakdown of vaccine distribution based on the four regions in the state -- the Midlands, Pee Dee, Lowcountry, and the Upstate.

The details of that plan remain to be seen, but a per-capita model based on those regions mirrors a bill working through the State House that would require such a distribution.

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