MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - WMBF News has gotten countless calls, messages, and emails from viewers who said they haven’t been able to get their second COVID-19 dose from Grand Strand Medical Center.
Unlike Conway Medical Center, Tidelands Health and McLeod Health, those who get vaccinated against coronavirus at Grand Strand Medical do not walk away from their first COVID-19 dose appointment with a time and date to come back for their second.
“If I had known this was going to happen, I would never have gotten my first shot there,” said Paula Slanlon.
As of Wednesday, she’s been eligible to get her second dose for COVID-19 for 11 days. She first got vaccinated at GSMC late last month.
“Due back around February 13th,” she said.
It was the first available vaccine appointment she could find. As someone who needs oxygen and has underlying health conditions, she didn’t want to wait any longer.
Slanlon said when she went in for her first dose, she didn’t know they didn’t schedule you right then and there for your second. She said she was told she’d get an email about her second.
Turns out it was just an email from VAMS, the CDC’s vaccination scheduling portal, not the hospital. She said they left you on your own to make the second appointment.
Deborah Donnelly also went to GSMC, and will become eligible starting Thursday.
“I can schedule an appointment on or after the 25th of February,” she said.
Both women said they check VAMS every day, but no appointments with Grand Strand were ever showing up.
The CDC said for those getting the Pfizer vaccine, they should get the second dose 21 days after the first. For Moderna officials say it’s 28 days.
Health officials also say getting a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine within 21 days isn’t possible, within 42 days could also work. Even though it’s not recommended, they said after 42 days it’s still not needed to go back and get the first dose again.
But with underlying health conditions, Slanlon said she wasn’t willing to test it out and is afraid to wait much longer.
Desperate for a dose, Donnelly said she’s looked everywhere to get an appointment.
“Conway Medical Center, Tidelands Health, Mcleod, places in Charleston, all over,” said Donnelly.
Both CMC and Tidelands said they’ve heard from people who got their first dose at Grand Strand trying to call and schedule their second dose with their systems. Officials at both hospitals stressed they don’t have the doses to vaccinate people who didn’t get their first shot with them.
During a news conference Wednesday, Nick Davidson, Senior Deputy for Public Health with DHEC said the agency wants providers to sign people up for second doses when they come in for their first.
“About a week or so ago we heard that they weren’t doing second dose appointments, we did reach out to them at that point and time, and they confirmed that indeed they were but just like everybody didn’t have a lot of doses,” said Davidson.
Davidson added that DHEC discourages people from trying to get a second dose from a different provider.
But that’s what Slanlon said she almost had to do.
Through VAMS she said she found an appointment to get her second dose from a Doctor’s Care in Georgetown. However, Wednesday afternoon she said she was contacted by GSMC about a new shipment of doses.
Now she’s headed back to GSMC on Thursday to get her second shot.
An official from GSMC said the hospital received a mere 33 vials and began contacting those farthest from the 21-day eligibility marker to get vaccinated.
The hospital released this statement to WMBF News on why they don’t schedule second doses when patients come in for their first:
“Grand Strand Medical Center just received a small shipment of vaccines which will allow us to open a very limited clinic tomorrow.
We have been working today to personally contact all individuals who are at least at their 21-day mark since their first vaccine. This should allow us to cover approximately 80 percent of those that are due for their second dose. We expect another shipment later this week that will allow us to open up a second clinic very soon to accommodate the remaining second dose appointments.
Due to the inconsistent deliveries of vaccines that Grand Strand Medical Center has received, it has been our goal to not schedule a second appointment at the time of the first appointment so that we can avoid canceling those appointments, as we know it is frustrating for our community members.”
And while Slanlon now is set for her second dose, she says with all the waiting and uncertainty, she still regrets going to Grand Strand for her first dose.
“Why can’t we just have the appointment? Like if you have a system that puts you in for the first vaccine, no problem your name was on the list, why couldn’t they do that for the second right then and there,” she said.