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DHEC reports 100% of doses sent to S.C. have been administered or scheduled to be put in arms

Updated: Jan. 15, 2021 at 6:14 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – The demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in South Carolina is outweighing the supply that is being sent to the state.

That was the key message that state health leaders pushed during a media briefing on Friday.

The interim public health director for the Department of Health and Environmental Control, Dr. Brannon Traxler, said that the flow from the federal government to the state is not sufficient to the demand.

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

South Carolina receives around 63,000 doses at the beginning of each week. As of Friday, the state has received 313,100 doses.

Traxler said that every one of the doses received has either been already administered or has been scheduled to be put in the arms of South Carolinians.

The news comes just days after people 70 and older were able to start booking appointments. A vaccine locator map was created to indicate which places were able to take appointments. Traxler stated that as of Friday there are 177 activated COVID-19 provider sites in the state that are able to receive the vaccine. But according to the map, only about 70 are able to book appointments due to vaccine availability.

WHAT TO KNOW: Those in S.C. 70 and older can schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments

As for keeping that map updated, Traxler said hospitals are asked to alert DHEC as soon as possible about their availability so that it can as close to real-time as possible.

“We are asking them to contact us or the hospital association and who are then contacting our folks and changing their status on the map. But as you know, on days like Wednesday, especially where appointments were flying off the shelves theoretically, it was very rapidly changing, and so even just those near real time updates were slightly behind at times,” Traxler explained.

In the meantime, DHEC is in the process of creating a statewide appointment system that will make it easier for people to book an appointment. She estimates that it will be up and running in the next two to three weeks.

Traxler said it’s not clear at this time if the federal government will send more weekly doses to South Carolina. She said the government has indicated that the state will continue to receive 63,000 doses through the end of January, but after that it’s not clear if the allotment will increase.

Meanwhile, there are some questions being raised after data displayed by the CDC showed that South Carolina has received the least amount of vaccine per capita in the country. As of Friday, the map indicates that 6,808 doses per 100,000 people have been distributed to South Carolina. Bordering states have well over 9,000 doses per 100,000 people, in comparison.

The numbers seem to be in conflict with how the vaccine doses were supposed to be allocated across the country.

“Our understanding has been that it is based on population,” Traxler said Friday.

RELATED COVERAGE | CDC data: South Carolina has least amount of vaccine per capita in U.S.

Traxler said DHEC is in communication with the CDC and Operation Warp Speed to address the data and see if the number is correct. She said they’re trying to understand if this is true, and if so: why this is happening.

And as South Carolina waits for more vaccines, federal officials are calling on states to allow those 65 and older to start receiving the vaccine. Traxler addressed this recommendation and said that something has to change before the vaccine can be available to others.

“If we start to receive supply that is exceeding demand more than what we currently are, where the demand is exceeding supply, then we will consult with our partners and look to open it up to additional populations,” Traxler explained.

Meanwhile, this also means that it could be some time before South Carolina transitions to Phase 1b in the distribution process.

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

“If South Carolina continues to receive 63,000 doses each week then we anticipate that Phase 1b could start in a couple of months,” Traxler said.

Traxler added that there are 879 CDC approved provider sites that are waiting to be activated once more vaccines become available.

Next week, federally qualified health centers are expected to start receiving vaccines, according to Traxler. Those centers are in rural areas so that people in those communities will have easier access to the vaccine and ensure equitable distribution.

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