COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced a deadline for those in Phase 1-A to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The good news is, we have the vaccine. The bad news is, it’s not getting out fast enough to the people. But we’re going to fix that because we believe we have found the bottlenecks, and we’re going to make it work,” McMaster said.
During a Tuesday discussion on the allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine across the state, McMaster said he asked the Department of Health and Environmental Control to establish a deadline for those in the initial group and communicate it to hospital executives.
According to McMaster, those in Phase 1-A have until Jan. 15 to receive that initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or make an appointment to receive it. If not, “you will have to go to the back of the line,” the governor said, noting the deadline is an effort to get the vaccine out to the people faster.
FORGING AHEAD | WMBF investigates South Carolina’s vaccine distribution process
“It’s like boarding an airplane. When they call your rows, if you don’t get on the plane, you go to the back of the line. You get in with everybody else,” McMaster said.
This was clarified to mean those who qualify for access to the vaccine within Phase 1-A but don’t take advantage of the priority position would still qualify for the next phase, not that they would have to wait until the time when vaccine doses are widely available to the general public.
The governor said if they need to move that January deadline up and get the next group in early, they will.
DHEC confirmed the Jan. 15 timeline, stating that in order to speed up the process of individuals getting vaccinated, “Phase 1a individuals or their employers must have contacted a provider to schedule an appointment by the January 15, 2021, deadline to ensure priority for the vaccine.”
It’s not yet known when the state will transition into Phase 1-B. In the past, DHEC had said they would seek reaching 70% of those within Phase 1-A before progressing; but this may change.
DHEC said the CDC’s guidance had evolved and now suggests “several variables to take into consideration for when to transition, with an overarching theme of supply exceeding demand.”
DHEC will look at this demand in the lead up to the Jan. 15 deadline in order to decide whether to progress into Phase 1-B.
In the meantime, DHEC has been communicating with providers “to instill a sense of urgency in having Phase 1-A individuals vaccinated as soon as possible.”
DHEC previously announced those who are in Phase 1-A, which includes:
- Persons performing direct medical care to suspected and/or confirmed COVID-19 patients: medical house staff (i.e., interns, residents, fellows), nurses, nurse’s aides, physical therapists (PT), physicians, physician assistants, respiratory therapists (RT), speech pathologists providing swallowing assessments during a patient’s infectious period, students (medical, nursing, PT, RT), occupational therapists, translators with direct patient contact
- Ancillary staff directly interacting with suspected and/or confirmed COVID-19 patients: laboratory personnel handling potentially infectious specimens, phlebotomists, and radiology technicians
- Emergency room staff in the above categories who provide direct patient care who are at high risk of exposure to undiagnosed, suspected and/or confirmed COVID-19 patients
- Nursing home and long-term care facility residents and staff
- Paid and volunteer medical first responders (EMS, fire department, and law enforcement personnel who provide emergency medical services) and hospital transport personnel in direct contact with suspected and/or confirmed COVID-19 patients
- Persons providing direct medical care in correctional facilities
- Persons providing direct medical care in dialysis and infusion centers
- Workers in outpatient medical settings frequently treating persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection
- Workers in settings where monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 infusions are given
- Home health and Hospice workers
- Public health nurses/personnel visiting facilities w/possible COVID-19 cases
- Autopsy room staff, coroners, embalmers, and funeral home staff at risk of exposure to bodily fluids
- Dentists and dental hygienists and assistants
The governor added they are not going to make any South Carolinian take the vaccine if they don’t want to.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, 21 days apart. The federal government has been holding onto the second doses in order to make sure that healthcare facilities would not run out.
DHEC officials said S.C. has received 129,675 of the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine as of Monday. Of those vaccines, 47,496 have been administered to those in Phase 1-A, representing a 37% utilization rate.