DHEC: First round of COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in S.C. mid-December

Grand Strand hospitals break down COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan during Phase 1

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – Members of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control gave an update Thursday on the status of a potential COVID-19 vaccine coming to South Carolina.

As it stands, three potential vaccines have shown to have more than 90% efficacy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will meet on Dec. 10 to consider authorizing the Pfizer vaccine and distribute it across the country.

According to DHEC, they anticipate limited quantities of the vaccine being delivered in the Dec. 14, Dec. 15, Dec. 16 timeframe, while noting that things can change.

FAQs: Questions related to COVID-19 vaccine distribution in S.C.

Even though other states, like North Carolina, have provided estimates on how many doses will come during the first round of distribution, health officials were not ready to say how many doses S.C. should expect to receive.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell did confirm during the call that DHEC is updating its Phase 1-A distribution plan to now include nursing homes. Originally during Phase 1-A, only healthcare workers were set to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But on Tuesday, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that healthcare workers and those in nursing homes should get priority.

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Dr. Jane Kelly, assistant state epidemiologist, said they do not expect to receive enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone in Phase 1-A within the first week, but will receive additional vaccines week-to-week.

“This is difficult because we do anticipate we won’t have enough vaccines to cover everyone in Phase 1-A. This is important to keep in mind we will receive additional boils, the amount of vaccines in that first week. Then there will be a weekly addition of vaccines,” Kelly said.

Once those in Phase 1-A are vaccinated, distribution will be transitioned to Phase 1-B.

According to the state’s interim vaccine distribution plan, Phase 1-B includes law enforcement, emergency crews, people who are 65 and over with underlying health conditions, teachers, school staff and childcare providers, and food packaging and distribution workers. This could change though if the CDC’s advisory committee makes a different recommendation. The committee’s next meeting will be Dec. 11.

DHEC leaders are hoping to move into Phase 1-B by January or February.

Meanwhile, state health officials continue to address the public’s skepticism of the vaccine and how quickly it has been developed.

Bell said the development of this vaccine has not been any different than any other vaccine and has gone through the same clinical trials of any other vaccine.

“I want to take this time to ensure everyone, the public safety and health of individuals is paramount,” Bell said. “All of the evidence that has been collected at the clinical trials will be submitted to the FDA and undergo the review of the FDA.”

She also pointed out that every medicine, including the Tylenol in your medicine cabinet, can have side effects.

“What we expect, including for the COVID-19 vaccine, is there could be some symptoms similar to getting a shot, a sore arm or feeling a little bit achy. But those symptoms should not be interpreted as this vaccine is not safe,” Bell said.

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