COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS/WMBF) - South Carolina health officials say there is still a large demand for the vaccine and not enough supply, which was made worse by the crippling storms across the nation.
State officials must continue to prioritize groups who need the vaccine more than others.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control has completed the first vaccines at longterm care facilities and they’re halfway through the second dose.
State officials said they have been working hard to vaccinate senior citizens in these facilities.
Nick Davidson, the Senior Deputy for Public Health, said they are still focusing on the senior centers and nursing homes.
Davidson said DHEC has completed its first round of visits to all facilities to administer the initial doses, but they’re not finished. Now, they are focusing on the second visit.
“We’re about halfway through the second visit where predominantly the vaccines have been second doses, but we’ve caught individuals who still needed their first dose,” Davidson explained.
Providers are seeing varying levels of difficulty with receiving vaccine shipments -- be it from weather delays, or an underwhelming supply of doses meant for second appointments.
The agency said providers looking for second doses for patients may need to adjust accordingly.
“We will need facilities at least in the near term, in the next couple weeks, to be using some of their first doses to cover some of those second dose clinics, and they may also have to postpone some of their second dose clinics,” Davidson said.
Davidson said this may be due to providers already dipping into their first dose allocations for second dose appointments and vice versa. He said that’s why it’s important facilities keep those inventories separate.
South Carolina providers have continued to also see delays in vaccine shipments because of bad weather in shipping hubs the state depends on for vaccine.
DHEC said this may mean some providers needed to reschedule appointments because of delays, which have gone on last week and into this week.
Davidson said Friday afternoon, though, that almost all of the first dose and second dose shipments affected have been delivered.
On the patient front, state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell explained it’s important to get the second dose and to do so when you can.
“We don’t want people to give up and just rely on that one dose,” she said. “Because from what we know now from both of those vaccines -- they won’t achieve that maximum immunity until they get that second dose.”
In an ideal world, people would get their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks after their first, or four weeks after their first when receiving the Moderna vaccine.
But this window isn’t a requirement, Bell said.
“If they have to get it going out many more weeks, even as long as six weeks and in fact, beyond that - that’s okay,” she said. “It will just take a little bit longer for them to get that maximum immunity.”
Health officials also addressed the different variants of the coronavirus, which are more easily spread. They said the best defense is to wear a face mask and keep social distancing.