BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – South Carolina has expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include residents age 70 or older, regardless of health status or preexisting conditions.
Scheduling began Wednesday, with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) Care Line receiving an influx of calls.
“We ask everyone to please be patient as we work to make certain the limited doses of vaccine available in our state are provided first and foremost to those most vulnerable to this disease,” DHEC stated.
At this time, the vaccine can only be administered by appointment:
- Visit this online map to find a location offering appointments near you
- Call the DHEC Care Line at 1-855-472-3432 for scheduling assistance
Locally, there are three hospitals currently scheduling appointments:
- Beaufort Memorial: Call 843-522-5670 or visit here
- Hilton Head Hospital: Call 843-689-7282 or visit here
- Coastal Carolina Hospital (Hardeeville): Call 843-689-7282 or visit here
DHEC says based on COVID-19 vaccine data — doses received, administered, and appointments scheduled — South Carolina officials are confident the majority of people in Phase 1a who want to be vaccinated have either received their shots or have scheduled appointments to do so.
But it will take time. Officials say some locations that offer vaccine may not have an appointment available for several weeks, depending on their supply.
There are currently 146,500 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the state, with 82,266 total doses already administered, a 56 percent utilization rate. Plus, 94,926 appointments have been scheduled by Phase 1a individuals to receive their vaccine over the next several weeks.
Officials say additional steps to expedite access to additional South Carolinians will be made based on the use of the vaccine, the number of appointments made, and information on vaccine supply.
“Because we’ve seen a dramatic acceleration in vaccine usage and appointments in the last week, we have decided to speed things up again,” Gov. Henry McMaster said. “We know that those 70 and older are at the greatest risk of dying from COVID-19. Making sure they have expedited access to the vaccine will help save lives.”
More than 67 percent of COVID-19 deaths in South Carolina have been among those 70 and older.
“While the COVID-19 vaccine is currently limited in South Carolina, like it is in all states, our providers continue to receive ongoing weekly shipments of vaccine from the federal government,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Interim Director of Public Health said. “When evaluating supply versus demand and as the rate of vaccines coming into the state increases compared to the rate of appointments being scheduled, we believe it is appropriate to begin scheduling appointments for additional South Carolinians.”
It’s estimated there are roughly 627,800 South Carolinians aged 70 or older in South Carolina, with many already receiving their vaccine through other Phase 1a eligibility.
“Based on current data, the mortality rate from COVID-19 for those 70 and older in South Carolina is approximately 655 deaths per 100,000 individuals,” Dr. Traxler said. “For those under the age of 70, there are approximately 37 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 individuals. This is a staggering comparison and illustrates why vaccinating this population next is critically important in our mission to save lives.”
What to know:
- Residents will be asked to provide a driver’s license or other form of ID at their appointment that confirms their age and, therefore, their eligibility to receive vaccine
- As long-term care facility residents and staff continue to receive their Moderna vaccine through the federal Long-Term Care program, the state can soon redirect some Moderna vaccine from that program and make it available to others
- South Carolina is committed to making the limited supply of COVID-19 available to rural and unserved communities that have residents currently eligible to receive vaccine. This is occurring through:
- an increased number of DHEC mobile clinic locations, where DHEC can bring the vaccine to communities without nearby locations offering vaccine
- working with the South Carolina Vaccine Advisory Committee, Office of Rural Health, Office of Minority Affairs, South Carolina Hospital Association, South Carolina Medical Association, and other state and local partners to establish vaccine provider locations to rural and underserved communities
- continuing to educate and inform rural, minority, and non-White communities about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine
- The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two shots separated by 21 days. The Moderna vaccine requires two shots separated by 28 days. You need to receive both shots of the same product; vaccine brands are not interchangeable.
- Both shots are needed for complete protection against COVID-19. After receiving both shots, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are 94-95 percent effective in preventing disease.
- Individuals will receive a vaccine card after receiving their first shot, reminding them when their second shot is due. Most providers are also issuing second-dose appointment reminders to patients by way of phone calls, emails or text messages.
- Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for some people, it can cause severe illness or death.
- Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like masks and physical distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.
For the latest COVID-19 vaccine information from DHEC, visit scdhec.gov/vaxfacts.
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