Grand Strand lawmakers send letter asking for federal assistance with COVID-19 vaccine

Grand Strand lawmakers send letter asking for federal assistance with COVID-19 vaccine

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A group of lawmakers representing the Grand Strand and Pee Dee is now calling on the federal government to provide more assistance with the COVID-19 vaccine.

A letter sent Friday addressed to Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Tim Scott and Congressman Tom Rice was signed by 16 state senators and representatives in both the Horry County and Georgetown County delegations.

Signatures on the letter include Sen. Greg Hembree, Sen. Kent Williams, Sen. Ronnie Sabb, Sen. Luke Rankin, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, Rep. Lucas Atkinson, Rep. Jeffery Johnson, Rep. Carl Anderson, Rep. William Bailey, Rep. Kevin Hardee, Rep. Russell Fry, Rep. Jackie Hayes, Rep. Case Brittain, Rep. Timothy McGinnis and Rep. Lee Hewitt.

“We are seeking your assistance in helping our communities and other statewide to receive more vaccine doses so that our medical professionals can vaccinate more South Carolinas efficiently and effectively,” the letter states. “The sooner we can receive more doses, the earlier our communities can begin to heal from this agonizing pandemic and our economy can bounce back quicker as well.”

The letter comes a day after the South Carolina Hospital Association said the state will receive ‘significantly less’ vaccine doses than requested next week. It also states that South Carolina “simply is not receiving enough vaccine doses” to make expanding vaccine administration a reality.

It also states South Carolina’s allocation of vaccine doses is only 28 per 1,000 by the CDC, which is below the national average.

“This is not acceptable,” the letter reads. “And it will continue to cause of vaccine supply to be gridlocked.”

As of Saturday, South Carolina has administered more than 155,000 doses of the vaccine and has utilized 67% of its Pfizer doses.

“Let’s try to get South Carolina to the national average,” said Rep. Hewitt. In an interview with WMBF News, Hewitt had been speaking with officials with Tidelands Health about their ability to administer vaccines.

“Area hospitals are prepared, they’re ready to do what they can, but if they don’t get the vaccine,” he added.

Tidelands Health said Saturday that they also need more doses.

“We are calling on our state leaders to do all they can to secure additional vaccine for the people of South Carolina. Tidelands Health stands ready to deliver this lifesaving vaccine to our community – as soon as we have the vaccine available to do so,” a press release from the hospital stated.

Starting Monday, Tidelands Health will begin community vaccinations in both Murrells Inlet and Georgetown. No walk-ins will be allowed. A spokesperson from the hospital said this week they’ll host the clinic through Friday, and may add additional days in the future.

“Since Wednesday, we have received more than 30,000 vaccine requests from individuals 70 and older. The vaccine we have in stock today will allow us to vaccinate approximately 3,000 of those individuals next week, in addition to delivering first and second doses to Phase 1a mission-critical workers who are already scheduled to receive their vaccine,” officials from Tidelands said.

But like all area hospitals, they’ll need more doses coming in to continue vaccinations, especially as more people become eligible to sign up.

“There’s calls to expand to 65 and over, well once you do that you’re expanding the waitlist. We can’t get the vaccinations to handle our current appointments,” said Hewitt.

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