Conway Medical Center ‘ready and excited’ for shift to Phase 1-B of COVID vaccine distribution

Conway Medical Center ready to shift to next phase in vaccine distribution

CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Local hospitals are continuing to administer their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to their frontline healthcare workers.

It’s all in coordination with carrying out the distribution of the vaccine within the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Phase 1-A.

Conway Medical Center was the first hospital in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee to receive and administer Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine back on Dec. 14. The hospital continues to receive weekly shipments of vaccine from the state, reaching 3,900 vaccine doses total on Tuesday.

RELATED COVERAGE | DHEC reports nearly 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been sent to S.C.

The hospital’s vice president of quality, Angela Williford, said with all these doses, they’ve asked for more guidance from DHEC on when they can begin to move forward with the next phase of distribution: Phase 1-B.

So far, over 1,100 doses have been administered to both CMC’s frontline staff, along with other community members who fall within the frontline workers described in Phase 1-A. Williford said they’ve reached workers like funeral service providers, dental offices and first responders.

The weekend before Christmas, the CDC’s advisory panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, voted on guidance for who should be included in phase 1-B and 1-C of distribution.

South Carolina’s own advisory panel, the Vaccine Advisory Committee, needs to review these recommendations.

In a release sent out Tuesday, DHEC said the committee “is using this federal guidance to complete phase 1-B guidelines in South Carolina, which will be provided as soon as it’s finalized, which could be early next week. The ACIP has also recommended development of a phase 1-C category, which the VAC will begin to develop in alignment with this federal guidance.”

Williford said DHEC told her the department would provide more guidance on Phase 1-B as soon as they receive additional guidance.

“We’re ready and excited to move when they finally give us the green light,” said Williford.

Williford said they’ve also asked DHEC if individual communities and hospitals will be allowed to transition from Phase 1-A to Phase 1-B more quickly than other regions of the state if they’re ready.

“So for example: if our hospital - with the doses that we’ve received so far, and our Phase 1-A population - if we reach a 70% uptake rate, can we go ahead and move to [Phase 1-B], even if the Midlands or the Upstate is not ready yet?” Williford asked.

This answer wasn’t available either, though she suspects this will also be a part of the conversation once the Vaccine Advisory Committee meets.

WMBF Investigates is waiting to hear back from DHEC on this question as well.

Until those answers become available, Williford said they feel ready to make some incremental moves into Phase 1-B.

“We certainly don’t have enough vaccine to vaccinate every 75 and over person in Horry County right now, but we could start making some moves once DHEC gives us permission to do so,” said Williford.

CMC said those future moves would entail a “hub-and-spoke” model to position vaccine in several ultra-cold freezers around the county to send vaccine to each of their individual clinics in their provider network.

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