ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Almost 20 percent of South Carolinians have started the process of becoming vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control. But for some, even if they are eligible to get a vaccine appointment, there are a lot of barriers keeping them from getting the shot.
Family Health Centers has been hosting walk-in vaccine clinics to help people get vaccinated without appointments, needing to go online, or leaving the areas they are most familiar with.
“The computer I’m not up with that because I don’t know that much about them,” said Robert Golson who got his first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at Family Health Centers’ Orangeburg pop-up vaccination event. “[Rather than] go through all of that aggravation I’d rather just come down here and get it done,” Golson added.
Golson said in addition to not having regular access to a computer, he knew he needed to get the vaccine to convince his wife it’s safe.
“It means everything between life and death. I consider this a life and death situation,” he said.
Constance Sellers was another of the more than 750 people who got their first shot Thursday, she said getting over vaccine hesitancy was a challenge for her at first.
“One of the fears is the unknown, not knowing what all is in it, the ingredients, what the vaccine was made of you know,” Sellers said.
However, she said seeing community leaders and government officials get the vaccine helped convince her to do it.
Before 2020, Sellers said she wouldn’t even get the flu shot.
“I did a lot of praying I’ll say that,” she said. “Seeing all of the lives that have been lost with COVID-19 and hearing all the people who have struggled and are still struggling with it, that’s why it’s a big thing for me as well because I don’t know want to be one of those statistics.”
She said after receiving her first dose of the Moderna vaccine, she’s looking forward to getting back to work.
“For me to be able to see my babies…I’m a special ed director and I love my babies and that’s one of the things,” she said.
But vaccine hesitancy isn’t only a reality for one age group or one demographic, students at Claflin University said they got their shots to be an example for other students who are seeing a lot of fake reports and skepticism about the vaccine online.
“Since it’s new that’s the main thing because COVID came and infected a lot of their loved ones…so that’s the thing…they don’t want this vaccine to come and make a negative impact on their life,” Claflin student Marquel Sanders said.
To help combat the fears in his own community, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, shared photos of himself getting his first shot.
Clyburn said he understands the fears some in his district have surrounding the vaccine and has spent a lot of time learning more about the Tuskegee Experiment, an event in history that has caused distrust of vaccines among some members of the Black community.
“I believe it’s required to get beyond this pandemic, and I think all of us have a responsibility to each other, to our children and grandchildren to do what is necessary for their safety,” Clyburn said.
He is also trying to help his constituents get better access to health care in the future by improving internet access in rural parts of the state.
On Thursday, Clyburn also introduced the “Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act” in Congress which he said would designate $94 billion to help underserved communities connect to affordable, high-speed internet access.
“This bill is designed to build up broadband throughout the entire country in four years,” he said. “We think that it is imperative that we do what is in this legislation in order to make sure that health care can be delivered more efficiently and effectively,” he added.
Clyburn said this bill has bipartisan support and he is not worried about passing the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives and he has hopes that it can get 60 votes in the Senate.
Until that bill passes and internet connectivity and digital literacy across the state improves, people like Golson say they will continue to spread their positive experience with getting vaccinated among his family and friends.
“I was [hesitant] at first, until I saw what it was doing to the virus, it’s controlling it pretty good,” he said.