COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – The Department of Health and Environmental Control announced on Friday it has submitted its vaccine plan for federal approval.
The plan, which was sent to the Department of Health and Human Services, was put together by several state agencies including, DHEC, South Carolina Hospital Association, National Guard, South Carolina Emergency Management Division and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division.
MORE INFORMATION | South Carolina COVID-19 Response Plan
The goal of the vaccine plan is to have equitable distribution of the vaccine across the state, based on the most current federal guidance and recommendations.
“Safety is the top priority in any vaccine development and no vaccine will be released until it has undergone the rigorous scientific and clinical testing that’s required as part of all vaccine development,” said Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina State Epidemiologist. “Scientists had already begun research for coronavirus vaccines during previous outbreaks caused by related coronaviruses, and that earlier research provided a head start for rapid development of vaccines to protect against infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”
At this point, a vaccine is not available in the United States, but DHEC officials said they are monitoring progress with vaccine trials from the federal government.
During the first stages of the national COVID-19 Vaccination Program, there will be a limited supply of the vaccine, according to state health officials.
DHEC stated that the limited supply will be made available to certain groups, including frontline workers and nursing home residents. The agency also said the majority of clinical trials on the vaccines have been done on adults.
“There’s only one that’s starting now, doing studies among teenagers,” said Dr. Jane Kelly, assistant state epidemiologist for DHEC.
This means DHEC doesn’t have a timeline yet for how soon children could receive a vaccine for COVID-19.
“Certainly we want to vaccinate school-aged children as well but the initial studies we’ve done are with the adults,” said Kelly. “Until we have the safety information for children, it’s hard to say when that vaccine will be available.”
Although the vaccine distribution plan had been submitted to the federal health officials, nothing is set in stone.
As the CDC learns more about the vaccine process, DHEC says their original vaccine plan could be changed.
“That plan is a living document and we do expect it to be modified,” said Bell. “It does require making a lot of assumptions because there are some unknowns. We will continue to evaluate our plan and adjust our response as needed, [as we] see how things are moving and any needs not being met will be modified as needed.”
The vaccine supply is expected to be more widely available to the public in 2021, according to DHEC.