McMaster, S.C. health officials talk COVID-19 vaccine rollout, proposal for phase two of CARES Act funds

Updated: Sep. 10, 2020 at 5:00 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and state health officials discussed the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine once one becomes available.

McMaster said the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will coordinate the distribution of the vaccine when it gets to the state.

The vaccine distribution program is expected “to be a public health effort of significant scale,” McMaster said during a Thursday briefing.

“Although we don’t know exactly when [a] vaccine will be available in the U.S., I want to assure you that DHEC is forging partnerships and following federal guidance for developing a plan for distributing the vaccine within our state when it becomes available,” said Stephen White, DHEC’s Director of Immunizations.

According to DHEC officials, the state’s distribution plan will be built on the guidance and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a vaccine is available, it will have a limited initial supply and be provided to frontline workers, nursing home residents and staff, and critical infrastructure employees, state health officials said.

It’s also not clear at this time if COVID-19 vaccinations will become a required school vaccination. Each year, DHEC works with key stakeholders to develop the vaccination requirements for school.

The vaccine will be a two-dose series and DHEC officials said Thursday it could be 21 to 28 days between doses.

DHEC Director Marshall Taylor said there is no confirmed date at this time for when a vaccine will be available. He stressed that, in lieu of a vaccine at this time, South Carolina residents must continue “in our united fight against this deadly disease.”

Three vaccines are in final-stage tests in the U.S. One of them from AstraZeneca is temporarily on hold while the company investigates whether a patient suffered a serious side effect or if the illness had nothing to do with the shot, the Associated Press reported.

RELATED: AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine study paused after one illness

Also on Thursday, McMaster announced recommendations to the General Assembly for how phase two funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act should be invested.

The governor’s recommendations include $450 million to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund, $45 million in grants for small businesses and non-profit organizations that did not receive federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, and $93 million to reimburse DHEC and MUSC for their continued COVID-19 efforts.

McMaster is also recommending $100 million to be reimbursed to state agencies with verifiable COVID-19-related expenses, and $50 million to be reimbursed for public school districts and charter school for COVID-19-related costs incurred by reopening.

The governor expressed frustration at school districts that did not offer parents the option of face-to-face instruction five days of week for their students.

“Parents are not happy. I’m not happy. I don’t know anyone who’s happy about this,” McMaster said.

Prior to the start of the new school year, McMaster requested that school districts across the state present reopening plans that included the option of in-person learning five days a week, or continued virtual learning.

For complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

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