S.C. vaccine committee publishes ‘interim draft’ of who to include in Phase 1b, surveys businesses

S.C. vaccine committee publishes ‘interim draft’ of who to include in Phase 1b, surveys businesses
COVID-19 vaccine. (Source: Pima County Health)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Vaccine Advisory Committee is getting closer to identifying exactly who is in South Carolina’s Phase 1b.

The committee published an interim draft outlining who ought to be included in Phase 1b of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. These recommendations continue to evolve.

Phase 1b is set to target chiefly “frontline essential workers.” During Wednesday’s meeting, the recommendation was made to put in an additional specification to say Phase 1b would not only vaccinate frontline essential workers but also those who have a medical condition that places them at an increased risk of severe COVID-19.

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

“That would address the concerns that we have heard from this group and from the public of young health people who are very unlikely to have severe COVID-19 being vaccinated before the large number of people who have medical conditions placing them at risk of death,” said Dr. Jane Kelly, DHEC’s assistant state epidemiologist.

Currently, South Carolina is in Phase 1a, which began with including frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents and staff.

Over the last few weeks, this list has been expanded to include people 70 years of age and older, people who are 65 years and older who are currently hospitalized, employees who are mission-critical for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in the state, and parents who are home caregivers of a child who is medically fragile or complex or severely disabled.

DHEC’s Vaccine Advisory Committee has been discussing this list and helping amend its guidance while determining who best to include in the phases that would follow.

On Wednesday, Dr. Linda Bell, DHEC’s state epidemiologist, discussed with members of the Vaccine Advisory Committee an email sent out on Friday to businesses and governmental entities across South Carolina.

The email looked for assistance from employers with the transition from Phase 1a to Phase 1b, and requested “input from the business community regarding the number of individuals in their workplace who meet the COVID-19 vaccination definition for essential workers and who are planning to take the vaccine,” Bell said.

It also included the working definition of “frontline essential workers,” which the committee has been deliberating for weeks as they receive requests for consideration from employers and agencies around the state.

DHEC’s listing of Phase 1b on their website has included the CDC advisory committee’s recommendations for who should be in Phase 1b. DHEC’s committee has been working to adapt these recommendations for South Carolina.

According to the VAC’s framework and recommendations document, frontline essential workers could include the following:

  • Public safety officers, firefighters not previously vaccinated in 1a.
  • Frontline essential workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and are at an unavoidable, substantially higher risk of exposure to COVID-19, that is, their occupational risk is above the general population. Such as:
    • Meat and poultry packing workers or other industrial settings unable to keep distance at work
    • Other frontline essential workers meeting the above definition include some, but not all, workers in the following sectors:
      • Food and agricultural
      • U.S. Postal Service
      • Manufacturing
      • Grocery store
      • Public transit
      • Education sector (teachers and support staff members) and child-care

People living and working in shared or overcrowded settings at increasing risk of infection who could be included in Phase 1b as well:

  • Residents and workers in group home settings with behavioral or substance use disorder conditions or for the mentally or physically disabled not previously vaccinated in Phase 1a
  • Workers and residents in homeless shelters
  • Workers and residents in community training homes (CTHs)
  • Correctional facility officials with close inmate contact
  • Correctional and immigration detention facility inmates
  • Migrant farmworkers living in shared housing or using shared transportation
  • Meat and poultry packing workers or other industrial settings unable to keep distance at work
  • Department of Agriculture meat/poultry inspector

Bell said the email sent out Friday “requests that businesses complete a brief survey so that we can get an assessment of the approximate number with a headcount of those individuals within each business sector who would meet the definition of essential frontline worker.”

Bell said DHEC’s environmental affairs organizational unit will be compiling the responses from this survey to help inform DHEC about the approximate number of frontline essential workers.

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