HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has left many WMBF viewers with questions about the process and what they need to do in order to get it.
Last week, people who are 70 and older were able to start making appointments to get the vaccine. It was the first time in South Carolina that people outside the medical field were able to make an appointment to roll up their sleeves.
But it came with a lot of frustrations and confusion. Many people were left not knowing who to call and appointments filled up due to the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the state.
WMBF Investigates spoke with Conway Medical Center’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Richardson and Vice President of Quality Angela Williford about the vaccine, the distribution and some of the challenges of booking appointments with a limited supply of doses.
Back in December, CMC administered some of the first vaccine doses here in the state to their staff. Today, the hospital says its full efforts are being stunted by the lack of supply.
“We have the capability of administering thousands of doses per week, but we can’t schedule those right now until we know that we’re going to have a larger allocation from week to week,” Williford explained.
CMC is echoing a similar issue vaccine providers across the state have been experiencing. DHEC has also agreed that there is not enough supply to meet the current demand for vaccinations.
South Carolina continues to receive 63,000 doses of vaccine for first-dose recipients, and DHEC says this number isn’t expected to change anytime soon.
Williford said they’ve received over 20,000 vaccine requests since the first day that those 70 years of age and older could start making appointments.
But based on their current supply, CMC says they can only comfortably schedule about 1,000 appointments for each dose per week.
In media briefings this week, DHEC has discouraged people from double-booking appointments or neglecting to cancel a vaccine appointment if an individual is unable to come in. Williford says so far, these concerns don’t seem to be an issue for the hospital.
“This 70 and up population is excited,” Williford said. “When we get ahead of schedule that way, then we’re able to reach out to the next folks on the list and see if they can come in with short notice, and we’re finding that that is absolutely possible. People are willing to drop what they’re doing, and get in to get that vaccine.”
DHEC says they’ve been working on launching a statewide online platform for people to make appointments in a centralized location. CMC isn’t sure what this will mean for them at this time.
“Right now, we don’t know whether it’s option, or if it will be required. Either way, we’ll follow DHEC’s guidance,” Williford said.
The hospital continues to take vaccine requests through their website. CMC can field calls for appointments as well but people may experience large wait times. Once a request is made, CMC says the hospital will contact you.
“It may take a few days for a scheduler to reach back out to you, but they will,” Williford said. “They’re working through those queues. We do ask for the public’s patience.”