Horry County Government responds to DHEC inquiry on vaccinating employees outside of Phase 1a

The inquiry references WMBF News’ report on county employees being offered vaccine
Updated: Feb. 15, 2021 at 11:30 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Officials with the Department of Health and Environmental Control are following up with Horry County Fire Rescue after WMBF News obtained and reported on an email sent out to all county employees to offer the chance to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a letter obtained by WMBF, a member of DHEC’s COVID-19 Incident Command contacted Horry County Fire Rescue’s primary vaccine coordinator, Ben Lawson.

In the letter sent out Sunday afternoon, DHEC said they’d received reports that the provider might be “intentionally vaccinating individuals outside of the Phase 1a priority groups” and referenced WMBF’s coverage discussing the issue.

RELATED COVERAGE | Email states all Horry County Government employees offered access to Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

DHEC asked the county if they had indeed scheduled and vaccinated any county employees or others not included in the current phase.

“At this time, we wish to have a better understanding, directly from you as the primary vaccine coordinator of record for Horry County Fire/Rescue, of who has been vaccinated by the program in Horry County, how your vaccine distribution was planned and operationalized, and whether any incidental administrations were necessary to prevent or reduce vaccine waste,” the letter said.

At 4 p.m., the Horry County Government sent WMBF News the response that Lawson’s sent to DHEC.

The letter states that Horry County Government employees are essential to maintaining the government and mission-critical efforts of COVID-19 vaccination and testing. Lawson added that they are also considering the “depth of bench” criteria of Phase 1a as part of their planning process.

Lawson stated that the Horry County Government had been in contact with two DHEC employees on how the county planned to use its allotment of vaccine with the understanding that they needed to administer vaccines as quickly as possible and with as little waste as possible.

In the letter, Lawson revealed the employees were also allowed to have a “designee” receive the vaccine as well.

“In consideration of that guidance, employees who opted to receive the vaccine were granted a designee to also receive a vaccine with an emphasis on those who met Phase 1a criteria,” the letter to DHEC stated. “We recognize and appreciate the criteria system and will continue to assist the State in this critical mission.”

DHEC officials said that they continue to monitor similar reports and regularly communicate the importance of following the state’s vaccination guidelines.

“Future vaccine allocations to individual providers may be reduced based on any lack of adherence to DHEC’s phase guidelines,” DHEC said in an email.

DHEC said there have not been any providers in South Carolina who have had their allocations reduced because of failure to comply with state guidance.

WMBF News will continue to stay on top of this story and DHEC’s response to Horry County Government.

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