DHEC director: South Carolina could be ready to move to Phase 1b in 2-3 weeks

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – South Carolina could start transitioning to Phase 1b in the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan in about two to three weeks, according to the director of the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Dr. Edward Simmer testified Tuesday afternoon during a Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee meeting, where lawmakers were hearing testimony on the teacher vaccine bills that would place teachers, school staff and daycare workers in Phase 1a.

During his presentation, he said that he’s looking forward to getting vaccines to those in Phase 1b, which at this point includes teachers and other critical workers such as grocery store and factory workers.

“Our intent is to go to Phase 1b as soon as we can no longer fill all of our appointments with Phase 1a. So as long as I have enough 65+ people to use up all of the appointments and get vaccine, we want to prioritize first,” Simmer said.

State Rep. Todd Rutherford asked if Simmer has a firmer time on when the state can begin the transition to Phase 1b. Simmer replied that it could be mid-to-late March, which is in two to three weeks.

“Once we’re not filling appointments with 1a, we’re not going to let a single appointment go wasted, we’re not going to let a single dose of vaccine go wasted, so as soon as we have open appointments we’re going to put 1b folks in there and that certainly includes the teachers,” Simmer explained.

Currently, Phase 1b in the state’s vaccine rollout has not been finalized by DHEC leaders. The South Carolina Vaccine Advisory Committee has spent weeks looking over recommendations and what fits best for South Carolinians.

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