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‘Nobody has talked to us’: Frustrations rise as some in Phase 1-A still wait for vaccine information

Updated: Jan. 6, 2021 at 6:39 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – While thousands of critical frontline workers in the Grand Strand have received their COVID-19 vaccinations, there are still many under Phase 1-A who haven’t even received information about how to get the vaccine.

Kelly Galloway, a dental hygienist in Myrtle Beach, is one of those people who didn’t realize until this week that she fell under Phase 1-A.

FORGING AHEAD | WMBF investigates South Carolina’s vaccine distribution process

“I didn’t even know we were in Phase 1-A until I had to find that out myself last night on your website and on the DHEC website. So as far as us being a priority, I didn’t even know we were a priority,” Galloway said.

Originally, dentists and dental hygienists did not fall under the Phase 1-A category, until the Department of Health and Environmental Control released a revised version on Dec. 31, which included the profession.

LIST | COVID-19 vaccine distribution phases, who receives vaccine in each phase

Galloway believes more could have been done to make sure that she and her colleagues were aware of the change.

“The South Carolina Labor License Board has all of our information,” Galloway explained. “We just had to renew our licenses by the end of 2020, so they have that. DHEC could’ve coordinated with them to get all of our information and at least send us an email to say, ‘Hey, you guys are in Phase 1-A, here’s what you need to do, here’s who you need to contact, this is what you need to do.’ But nobody has talked to us. I don’t know anything.”

But now on top of just learning she is in Phase 1-A, Galloway is under a time crunch to get her vaccine or make an appointment before the Jan. 15 deadline that Gov. Henry McMaster has set for those in Phase 1-A.

RELATED COVERAGE | McMaster: Jan. 15 deadline set for those in Phase 1-A to get COVID-19 vaccine

During a discussion on Tuesday, McMaster said that those in Phase 1-A have until Jan. 15 to receive the first 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.

“I was mad. I was really mad. I thought, ‘OK, that was at 6-6:30 last night, which was January 5, so I had less than 10 days to get the vaccination or make an appointment. I didn’t know where I was supposed to go, who I was supposed to contact and I felt like I was on a major time crunch,” Galloway explained.

And Galloway isn’t alone in her questions on where she can go to get the vaccine and how she can make an appointment.

WMBF News has received over 100 emails from viewers, many of them asking where they can get the vaccine.

On Wednesday during a media briefing, DHEC explained what those who fall under Phase 1-A should do in order to make sure they have scheduled a vaccine before the deadline.

Leaders said South Carolina employers of Phase 1-A workers are encouraged to reach out to local hospitals as soon as possible with a roster of employees who want to be vaccinated.

DHEC interim Public Health Director Brannon Traxler added that individuals in Phase 1-A who want to be vaccinated should contact their local or nearest hospital to request an appointment. Individuals who make an appointment may need to present credentials to verify that they fall under Phase 1-A, which may include a badge card, license or personalized letter from an employer.

As for what people should do who fall under other phases, Traxler explained that DHEC is discussing ways to get the vaccine out quickly to the public.

“Drive-thru is a potential that’s being explored. We are still looking at it in relation to the 15-minute period that’s needed after receiving the vaccine. We are also looking at basically a scheduling type system, either online or by telephone or some hybrid thereof,” Traxler explained.

She said as the state gets closer to Phase 1-B, DHEC will provide more information on different options for how people can arrange to get the vaccine, along with specifically where to go.

DHEC has also added a Care Line to help with general questions about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine. Staff will answer calls between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. That number is 1-855-472-3432.

In the meantime, Galloway is hoping she will be able to get a vaccine at Grand Strand Medical Center, which is offering a COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

“I’m just really disheartened by all of this. This is a huge public health crisis and people are dying from it, but there’s no easy way to take care of it. It’s sad,” Galloway said.

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