Vaccine shortage in Lowcountry leads to dozens of canceled appointments

Local News

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – Dozens of COVID-19 vaccination appointments have been canceled in the Lowcountry.

Hospital officials say they had no choice but to delay because they did not get enough doses to cover the demand.

But local health officials say they’re working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“We continue to be in the situation…that the demand for the vaccine greatly outweighs the supply,” said South Carolina State Sen. Tom Davis (R-District 46).

Market CEO Jeremey Clark, of Hilton Head Regional Healthcare, said many people received an email from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that stated the appointments were canceled due to staffing.

“This is not the case,” he said. “Our hospital and our vaccine clinics are well-staffed, we just didn’t have enough vaccine to give out this week.”

Clark says his staff fully expects to contact everyone who had an appointment canceled this coming week.

“I know we are frustrated the community is frustrated, I know the state is frustrated,” said Russell Baxley, CEO of Beaufort Memorial Hospital. “There is no one that is not frustrated at this moment because our goal is to get everyone vaccinated.”

While South Carolina health officials wouldn’t pinpoint a direct reason for the shortage, one theory is the winter weather up north may have slowed down the supply chain.

Davis says the numbers show our area is getting the fair share of doses from the nationwide supply. He is asking for more doses, but so are all 46 counties in the Palmetto State.

With Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine getting endorsed for emergency use, and Pfizer’s vaccine production and distribution expected to be ramped up, the supply is expected to be more readily available.

All the hospitals in our area say they’ve been approved for a full allotment this coming week, and hope to end the backlog, soon.

“Hopefully you will soon see more green dots on that vax locator (on the DHEC website https://vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov/),” said Davis. “You will find more providers that actually have doses and you will have more opportunities for individuals to schedule appointments.”

“I don’t expect us to get to our 12,000 people next week on our waitlist, but I feel very positive that things are getting better,” said Baxley.

“It is incredibly frustrating to all of us, but I know it is really frustrating to our patients who are scheduled to get that vaccine, and then it gets canceled. It is frustrating to them, it is frustrating to me as well,” said Clark. “I would just ask everyone to hang in there as we work through this process. We are all evolving with this process, and we are going to contact them very soon to get them vaccinated.”

For those who got the first shot and are concerned the backlog will affect their second dose, health officials say those concerns are unwarranted.

“We know that the CDC guidelines allow for the second dose to be given up to 42 days after the first dose,” said Clark. “So while there is a lot of anxiety it is still effective even a week, two weeks later.”

Davis is still working on the administrative aspect of a mass vaccination event in the Lowcountry.

“All we need is a go ahead from [the Medical University of South Carolina],” he said.

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