Senate approves $208M funding bill to improve vaccine rollout

Bill next goes to the SC House

Senate approves $208M funding bill to improve vaccine rollout
The South Carolina State House in Columbia. (Source: WCSC/WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A bill lawmakers and hospitals hope will help improve the vaccine roll out in South Carolina, in particular in rural communities, has passed the South Carolina Senate and is now heading back to the House.

In a 40-1 vote, Senators approved a measure that would send $208 million to DHEC, MUSC, and other hospitals to improve testing and vaccinations. Under that bill, retired health care workers and other trained professionals like dentists would be able to vaccinate others.

Senators amended the Wednesday bill to remove language calling for the formation of regional vaccine roll out committees in the four medical areas of the state (Upstate, Midlands, Lowcountry, PeeDee) out of concern that new committees would add red tape and slow the vaccine roll out.

MUSC officials said the bill would help fund rural healthcare clinics and vaccine drive-thru events. It could also help set up regional vaccine advisory committees to help fill in gaps in coverage statewide.

“Some of our counties have no hospitals. They have very few providers and we want to fill the gaps where appropriate and take DHEC’s lead and the governor and our legislature’s lead and provide resources to that area as soon as possible,” MUSC Government Relations Director Mark Sweatman said.

In a statement to Gray TV, DHEC said they will also use these additional funds to assist communities with less access to health care.

“Additional funds would cover the costs of DHEC staff to help vaccinate people in health departments or at other community clinics as vaccine manufacturing ramps up and vaccine becomes wider available to everyone. These additional staff will supplement efforts to maximize the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations across the state, especially in rural and underserved communities, and will be used to improve access in all 46 counties,” a spokesperson for the agency wrote.

Some of that money could also to help market and promote the vaccine.

The House already passed a similar funding bill, but will need to take up this latest legislation again before it can reach the Governor’s desk.

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