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DHEC permits providers to give vaccine outside of phase eligibility in order to avoid waste

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 sits on a table at Hartford Hospital,...
A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 sits on a table at Hartford Hospital, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)(Jessica Hill | AP)
Updated: Feb. 11, 2021 at 3:02 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – Vaccine providers are allowed to give doses to people who are outside of the phase eligibility, but only as a last resort, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

FORGING AHEAD | WMBF investigates South Carolina’s vaccine distribution process

The information was provided in a series of answers that DHEC submitted to a House Legislative Oversight Committee that is studying the vaccine rollout in South Carolina. The committee had submitted additional questions to the health agency after a meeting last month where lawmakers grilled DHEC leaders about the slow and confusing vaccine rollout.

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One of the questions was if providers are allowed to vaccinate people outside of the phase eligibility in order to avoid waste. And DHEC said the answer is yes, but providers need to be sure all options are exercised before that happens.

“No doses of vaccine should ever be wasted. It is better to vaccinate an available person out of phase than to waste vaccine. However, vaccine providers should put systems in place to avoid or mitigate such circumstances,” DHEC wrote in a letter to legislators.

The letter includes these measures that should be taken:

  • Opening a vial only when there are enough in-phase individuals present and waiting for vaccine to use all doses in the vial. If there are fewer in-phase people available, they should re-schedule rather than risk wasting vaccine.
  • Documentation of eligibility for in-phase vaccination should be made before a vial is opened.
  • If a mistake occurs and vial has been opened with an insufficient number of in-phase people are available, a call-back system should be used to alert in-phase individuals who have signed up for a call-back with information on the availability of vaccine and the response time needed.
  • If despite these safeguards, no in-phase person is available, it is better to vaccinate a person out of phase than waste vaccine.

As of right now, South Carolina is in Phase 1a, which includes essential frontline healthcare workers and those 65 and older. The Vaccine Advisory Committee is still working on recommendations for Phase 1b, which will be finalized by DHEC leaders.

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