Grand Strand, Pee Dee doctors stress ‘masking up’ and ‘backing up six feet’ during vaccine distribution process

Updated: Dec. 15, 2020 at 5:27 AM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Many across the Grand Strand and the Pee Dee want to know when it’s their turn to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

This comes after the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed a limited supply of Pfizer’s vaccine will be distributed to 56 sites throughout the state by the end of the week.

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Those dosages are for people in Phase 1A, which encompasses those who are most vulnerable to the virus such as critical healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities.

Conway Medical Center was one of the first hospital agencies in the state to the receive their vaccine dosages.

McLeod Regional Medical Center confirmed they’ve received its vaccine dosages and will begin distributing it to employees Tuesday afternoon. Hospital staff said the dosages will be distributed in three phases:

Phase One will include employees in direct care of COVID-19 patients and all McLeod Health active and affiliate medical staff physicians. It will begin early this week.

Phase Two will include employees in inpatient and outpatient departments with direct patient care responsibilities.

Phase Three will include employees who serve in non-direct patient care departments.

Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs for Tidelands Health, said they’re expecting to receive the vaccinations within the next day and are ready to implement their distribution plan for employees in phases, which will start with those who are considered critical employees.

“We’re hours away from getting the vaccine and once we get it on site, we’re hours from starting our vaccination program,” Harmon said.

Harmon said they strongly encourage healthcare workers and providers to take the vaccine, but it’s not required.

DHEC says after Phase 1A, the next group to receive vaccine dosages will be during Phase 1B, followed later by Phase Two.

It’s not until Phase Three when the general population will be able to receive the vaccine. This has some people wanting to know how soon they’ll have access to the vaccine.

DHEC says the state is only in the beginning stages of the vaccine distribution phase, which prioritizes frontline workers and people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Those are the people most at-risk for the COVID-19 virus.

Dr. Paul Richardson, chief medical officer of Conway Medical Center, says as of now, there’s no definite date or exact time frame on how long it could take before everyone will have access to the vaccine.

“I really don’t have a good timeline to give anyone at this point,” said Richardson. “Obviously, we’re on our way, we’re on the journey. So I wouldn’t even want to speculate. Obviously, we want to get everyone as quickly as we can but we have to adhere to the CDC and other federal officials.”

Doctors said based on DHEC’s distribution plan, the general population is in the last group for receiving vaccine doses. Until then, doctors are advising everyone to keep their safety guards up because the virus is still lurking during the holiday season when the vaccine isn’t widely available yet. That means wearing a face mask and keeping six feet of distance from one another.”

“Now is the time to put our foot on the accelerator,” Richardson said. “We see escalating numbers nationally, we need to be super vigilant. We need to bend this curve as we head into vaccination season. You need to take the appropriate [safety] precautions at all ages.”

”The transmission of this [virus] is almost always silent and undetected,” said Dr. Dale Lusk, corporate chief medical officer for McLeod Regional Medical Center. “The virus is real rampant right now. We’re in the season where we tend to gather as family and friends a lot. It’s colder weather some of the days which means we tend to be inside with more people. The vaccine is going to help us out in the future, not today and not right when you get it. It takes a while for your body to set up those defenses and it’s still very important to continue even after you’ve gotten the vaccine to practice those measures and keep from spreading the disease, such as washing your hands, wearing your masks and socially distancing.”

“I know for social needs, we want to get together for the holidays,” Harmon said. “But being together physically right now in a closed environment, that’s dangerous right now. We’re going to ask you to minimize the gatherings, we’re going to speak against traveling for long distances. I’m optimistic; we have better treatments, we have the vaccine we’re about to distribute. We’re going to look at this in our rear view mirror in the summer or fall of 2021 and remember where we were and we’re going to be very grateful and thankful that we had [such great] technology, and a good, patient population living in a great country.”

“The [safety measures] are the backbone of trying to prevent this the spread of this virus,” Dale said.

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