BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – It is the news thousands of people in the Lowcountry expecting to get their vaccine in the coming weeks didn’t want to hear: their appointment in Beaufort County has been canceled.
“We don’t know what we will get next week and the state has let us know that we will not be able to understand each week to week how many first doses we will be getting and that’s why we will adjust what we are doing,” explained Beaufort Memorial Hospital President and CEO Russell Baxley.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital had planned to vaccinate about 600 people a week, with more as additional vaccines become available.
But Friday, word came down they would have to cancel almost 6,000 appointments between now and March 30. Hilton Head Regional Medical Center and Coastal Carolina Hospital another 300.
“I don’t know that anyone had a perfect plan for this so I think we are all doing the best we can with the information available to us,” explained Baxley. “There are a lot of needs in this state and a lot of hospitals in this state and they are still trying to open up more vaccination centers.”
Both hospitals say it’s the lack of available vaccines from the state of South Carolina coming to them, and the unknown of what the future holds that led them to this decision.
“It is an imperfect process but we are working on a new process and that process will get people back in the clinics for that first dose, and then before you leave you will have your second appointment scheduled for that second dose,” said Baxley.
Beaufort Memorial will be honoring 975 second vaccine doses this week as well as about 400 first doses. They are working through the list and rescheduling anyone else who had signed on for this week.
All appointments scheduled to take place before 12 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at Hilton Head and Coastal Carolina hospitals will be canceled and rescheduled for the following week. All appointments scheduled to take place at 12 p.m. or later on Wednesday, Jan. 20, as well as any appointments scheduled on Thursday, Jan. 21, or Friday, Jan. 22, will be accommodated.
They plan to administer more than 1,500 COVID-19 vaccine doses this week.
“We just need to be patient and know that all state and local hospitals directly are doing what we can to get the vaccines to the centers directly in order to start vaccinating as many people as possible,” said Baxley. “Disappointing is a good word but again I think that holds true for everyone that’s a part of this process.”
“We can put these public and private resources that we have on the ground here to use in assisting DHEC in accomplishing our common objective which is to get as many people vaccinated as possible as quickly as possible,” said State Sen. Tom Davis.
Davis says he isn’t letting the current vaccine shortage take his eyes off his long-term plan, a mass-vaccination event in Beaufort County.
“There will be a massive supply of the vaccine eventually ramped up dramatically,” said Davis. “What we need to plan for now is how do we administrate it, how do we distribute it, how do we get it into people’s arms on the ground. The time to get that in place is now not when supply ramps up and they are ready to give it to us, putting that plan into place now having it reviewed by DHEC right now is critical.”
“The next two to three weeks we need to convince DHEC and Governor McMaster that we have logistics in place for four mass vaccination events in Beaufort County and let us show you how quickly we can put vaccine doses in people’s arms,” explained the senator. “Let us demonstrate that to you.”
Davis believes even with the vaccine shortages, the time is now to start planning ahead.
“Not when the supply ramps up, not two to three weeks from now, it is now. Let’s put into place now the plans,” he said. “These are going to be our sites, these are our logistics, these are our health care workers, these are the people that will help register people. If we can do all that work on the front end, when that supply of the vaccine becomes available we can make it a reality on the ground.
“My job is to have all our ducks in the row locally so we are ready.”