COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Wednesday President Joe Biden called getting your COVID-19 vaccine a patriotic duty. It comes as the CDC reports that the rate of shots going into arms across the country has decreased.
Public health officials warned that a similar trend is also occurring in South Carolina.
“We are concerned about slowing demand because we can and we must reduce the number of deaths, hospitalizations, and new cases if we are going to get out of this pandemic,” Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said. “The best way to do that is via the vaccine. The other issue is the more people delay getting vaccinated, you know folks who want to get vaccinated but they don’t feel urgent about it right now, is the more we delay the more opportunity the variants have to spread.”
Dr. Kelly said part of the problem is vaccine hesitancy.
She said that reasons for hesitancy range from emotional reasons surrounding lack of trust and misinformation to physical barriers, like having to work.
“Vaccine hesitancy is complex,” Dr. Kelly said. “There are many people who take time to move from contemplation to action and we need to address what their reasons are for that wait and see contemplation step. For some, it’s practical questions like can I take time off from work to get vaccinated?”
A survey conducted in January revealed that certain areas of the state seem to have greater vaccine hesitancy than other areas.
“There is more vaccine hesitancy in the Upstate region as demonstrated by a survey we did in January,” Dr. Kelly said.
DHEC’s data shows counties along the coast have some of the highest vaccination rates per 10,000 residents, with Charleston and Georgetown counties at over 50%, while Richland County sits at around 39%.
However, Dr. Kelly said it’s going to take effort from all areas of the state to reach herd immunity.
“We are a mobile society, so I think it’s really blindsided to think that oh well we’ve achieved herd immunity in this part of the state, but not that part of the state; we are in this together,” she said.
When it comes to vaccine supply, as of today the state has a little over 410,000 doses in inventory and about 240,000 scheduled appointments.
DHEC was able to distribute some of those doses to providers that were previously only administering the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Dr. Kelly recommends that those who are are on hold for the J&J vaccine make an appointment to receive one of the other vaccines instead of waiting.
South Carolina has seen 155 breakthrough COVID-19 cases, which are when a fully vaccinated individual test positive for COVID-19. Dr. Kelly said this is to be expected since the vaccine is 95% effective at protecting against COVID-19.