DHEC board to continue review of vaccine allocation models in South Carolina

A model being considered would shrink current vaccine allocations in Grand Strand, Pee Dee

DHEC lays out future plans for vaccine allocation in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - Last month, DHEC’s board began taking up the call to figure out how to best ration the limited doses South Carolina is receiving.

The board decided to go forward with reviewing a per capita model, one that bases the number of vaccine doses on a county’s population.

Board members on Thursday reviewed where doses have gone so far and what needs to be done to get it out more fairly, especially to rural areas.

Officials at DHEC then presented some new data to the board that shows just what using a per capita model by county would actually mean in practice.

When comparing the numbers with Horry County is currently receiving, the area would see a huge decrease in doses available.

During a presentation by DHEC’s Senior Deputy for Public Health, Nick Davidson, officials gave an example of what this model would look like.

Week 9′s allocation sent 8,294 doses to Horry County, but if decided based on population, that should only have been 4,709 doses.

The contrast is apparent in other counties in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.

Florence County received 5,674 doses during that same week of distribution. This would reduce to nearly a third if allocated based on a per capita model, to 2,010 doses.

Other counties would start to see growth in their supply. Berkeley County would theoretically receive well over 2,000 more doses, while Spartanburg County would receive another 1,800 as well.

Per capita vs. current allocation example for each county.
Per capita vs. current allocation example for each county. (Source: SCDHEC)

Davidson said during the presentation that they’ve found that county lines don’t stop someone from getting a vaccine.

“People are moving to get this,” he said. “They’re looking for where the vaccine is, they’re looking at our map on our website; they’re making the phone calls to those providers; they’re calling our COVID information line and using our website to be able to make appointments. So people -- there is great demand.”

One of the board members commented that having a per capita model would help vaccine providers know what to expect for their planning.

“Stability of prediction for staffing and setting up and being able to deliver the services is very important,” he said.

Some of the logistical concerns in following this model means they’ll need to make sure there are sufficient numbers of providers to deliver the vaccine in rural areas.

“There’s always debates about how much everybody should get, and I don’t want folks to think that that’s going to go away. There will still be some of those logistical challenges because there is no model that will make everybody happy,” said Davidson.

He thought this would target more rural populations and communities of color in a greater way than what they’ve been able to do so far.

Davidson said it also may require more state and federal vaccine site support in the form of special clinics and events. He also explained that DHEC recently learned that additional vaccine would head to FQHCs aside from the state’s allocation.

“It will require more of tailored events, but frankly, if we’re going to get out to those people who need it, we have to tailor to the needs that they have,” said Davidson. “That’s what health equity is all about.”

DHEC also provided more numbers on where the vaccine is being administered, and to who.

According to the numbers, over 43,000 doses of the vaccine have gone to Horry County residents.

Davidson explained the data was challenging for their team to pull, and there are some quirks in the numbers. The numbers provided can give a general idea of the lay of the land at this time.

Vaccine administration by county, 2.11.21
Vaccine administration by county, 2.11.21 (Source: SCDHEC)

The board did not make an official decision today.

After a lengthy executive session where they consulted with legal counsel, the board returned to ask for more review on another type of per-capita model: by DHEC region.

Davidson agreed this would give more flexibility in meeting the needs of local communities within a district than the county-by-county per capita model.

DHEC now has a month to review that model before briefing the board in March.

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