‘We’re ready for it to open’: S.C. hospitals prepare for increase in vaccine demand as eligibility opens up

Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 5:14 AM EDT
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MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WMBF) - Hospitals in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee are adjusting to meet the anticipated increase in demand for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Anyone 16 years old and older in South Carolina will become eligible for the shot on Wednesday.

RELATED COVERAGE | COVID-19 vaccines in SC open to everyone 16 & up starting March 31

Tidelands Health has already opened up bookings for people to receive their first dose on or after March 31.

As of this Monday morning, they scheduled more than 2,200 appointments for people 16 and older.

The health system is hosting a mass vaccination clinic on April 10, where 1,000 appointments are available for the event. They’ve also extended evening hours at the Tidelands Health Medical Park clinic on 2200 Crow Lane in the Market Common.

RELATED COVERAGE | Tidelands Health plans mass vaccine event as eligibility in S.C. expands to those 16 and up

“We moved down from 70 plus to 65 to 55 and now we’re moving into the rest of the population and so you start to get more and more working people that really can’t come in the middle of the day,” Tidelands Health Chief Operating Officer Gayle Resetar said.

Resetar said the hospital currently receives 3,500 first and second doses of the vaccine each week.

“Our sites run really efficiently and expanding into Market Common as another location will sort of help spread that volume out, but that’s actually a very comfortable number for us to do,” she said.

As for Conway Medical Center, hospital spokesperson Allyson Floyd said its vaccine supply doubled this week from a single tray of 1,170 first doses to two trays.

She said while the demand has slowed down, they expect it to pick back up this week just as it did when the previous phases opened.

“The system has been working for us here at Conway Medical Center with booking appointments and the waiting list so we’re ready for it to open certainly,” Floyd said.

In Florence, McLeod Health’s three-day vaccine clinic in the McLeod Plaza will move to the McLeod Support Services Center on Enterprise Drive on April 12, which will open up to five days.

“We’ve been able to flex up and down as the guidelines have changed so I think we’re well prepared for the expansion,” Michelle Dore, a vaccine coordinator with McLeod Health, said.

However, despite the eligibility expanding, healthcare leaders said vaccine hesitancy is still there.

“The concern that I have there is about herd immunity and if we don’t get enough people vaccinated we won’t develop that,” Virginia Hardee, a vaccine coordinator with McLeod Health, said.

“This is how we’re going to get our economy back on track,” Resetar said. “It’s how we’re going to survive our summer with all of our vacationers coming.”

CMC encourages those in Phases 1a and 1b who want the vaccine, but haven’t booked an appointment yet, to do so before appointments open up to anyone 16 and older on Wednesday.

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