COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – As South Carolina educators await word on when they’ll be offered the COVID-19 vaccine, the state’s superintendent said they all will have a provider for getting that shot in their arms.
During a virtual briefing Friday, Superintendent Molly Spearman said the S.C. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Environmental Control have worked with the school districts and approved vaccine providers over the past week. She noted that every school district in the state has been matched with a vaccine provider in their area.
“We’ll be ready to go,” Spearman said.
The superintendent said there are four different scenarios the districts can use for vaccinating educators once eligible, depending on a district’s individual size:
- The vaccine provider handles everything, including setting up vaccination events.
- The vaccine provider and the school district conduct a vaccine event together.
- The vaccine provider provides the doses only, and school nurses and other personnel vaccinate staff.
- The vaccine provider helps coordinate several small districts to come together at a central location, such as a community center, and provide the shots.
While Spearman said all districts have been matched with a provider, that’s not quite the case in Horry County.
Horry County Schools said Friday that it doesn’t have a provider nailed down just yet, but added that all four local health systems have been willing to help. HCS Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey said during a meeting on Monday that the district hopes to finalize its employee vaccination plan next week.
Ryan Brown, spokesperson for the state Department of Education, said there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for how districts vaccinate teachers and school staff, noting it will depend on not only the size of the district, but the size of the provider.
“We know for a fact that a vaccine provider has said, ‘We will help this school district,’” Brown said.
The superintendent’s update comes days after the state Senate unanimously passed a bill that moves teachers, school staff and daycare workers to Phase 1A of S.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The measure also states that the Department of Health and Environmental Control would need to offer teachers and school staff a vaccine 30 days after it’s signed by the governor.
An added stipulation in the bill is that teachers would need to go back to teaching full-time, face-to-face for the rest of the school year. That legislation now heads to the S.C. House.
Spearman said Friday there are 122,876 educators and staff in S.C., with the average age being 43 years and four months old. Of that number, 70,973 indicated they get the vaccine when it’s offered, according to the superintendent.
Additionally, private schools in the state estimate they have 15,000 staff, and around 8,000 will take the vaccine, Spearman said.
She added that state education officials are anticipating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to offer new guidance that strongly encourages school to reopen for in-person learning.
According to Spearman, 682 of the state’s 1,266 public schools are operating with five days a week of face-to-face learning, while 553 are using a hybrid learning model and 31 are fully virtual.
The superintendent stressed the importance of CDC guidance that says those who are fully vaccinated won’t have to quarantine if exposed to the coronavirus, and what that means for resuming in-person learning.
“This changes the game for schools trying to reopen,” she said. “Receiving the vaccine is critical for keeping schools open and staffed appropriately. Guidance from the CDC issued this week is very very important. It says that once vaccinated, there is no need for individuals to quarantine.”