DHEC leaders address next shipments, timeline and plans moving forward for vaccine distributions

DHEC leaders address next shipments, timeline and plans moving forward for vaccine distributions
(Source: Caroline Coleburn)

COLUMBIA S.C. (WCSC)- The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is expecting to receive around 60,000 initial doses combined of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this month, according to the state immunizations director.

DHEC Immunizations DirectorStephen White said they are planning to expand where people in phase 1a can receive their vaccines.

“In the next week or two we anticipate we will see additional vaccinators to be able to help vaccinate those outside of the walls of long-term care facilities and / or the hospital systems and have additional access points for people that wish to be vaccinated,” White said.

DHEC Interim Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said she feels the initial vaccine rollout has been “very smooth at this point considering all of the logistical complexities.” She said people can expect distribution to ramp up in the coming weeks.

“I believe that we are seeing that increase and we will continue to see that increase over the next couple weeks a very rapid increase in the utilization rate of the vaccines,” Traxler said.

While the state is currently in Phase 1a, which includes frontline healthcare workers, nursing homes and first responders, Traxler said teachers and school staff can expect to be in the next group to receive the vaccine.

“We will have a variety of opportunities to receive the vaccine once we get to that phase,” Traxler said. “That likely includes pharmacies, and vaccine clinics that are open to all phase 1B members.”

Currently DHEC is urging hospitals to give out any additional vaccines to non-affiliated healthcare workers outside their systems.

“They are allowed, and we do encourage, within their capacity and availability of the vaccinee, to reach out to those community partners, those other phase 1A members who are not affiliated with the hospital system.”

Traxler also said the state agency hopes most people will be vaccinated once they are readily available later this year.

“We are hoping to have and anticipating that the vaccine will be widely available by summer to any and all South Carolinians that are 16 or older,” Traxler said. “If enough people get vaccinated... We could reach basically, that heard immunity point by the fall.”

In the meantime, DHEC urges people to stay vigilant with COVID-19 safety precautions.

“The message right now is again, step up by stepping back in and waiting until it is their turn and we promise we will be notifying through every means necessary those persons when it is their turn,” Traxler said.

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