COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster announced a new deadline he says will increase the speed of the vaccine rollout in South Carolina.
The governor said anyone who qualifies to be vaccinated under Phase 1A of the state’s plan must either get the first dose of the vaccine or make an appointment to do so, by Jan. 15. If they do not do so by that time, they will “go to the back of the line,” McMaster said.
To see everyone included in Phase 1A, click or tap here.
If people in Phase 1A do not meet the deadline, they will have to wait and be a part of Phase 1B, the governor said, basically missing their chance to get the vaccine early.
Regarding people who fall under Phase 1A who have not been contacted or notified about getting the vaccine, the governor urged them to call their local hospital. However, the Department of Health and Environmental Control previously said people should not contact hospitals.
The governor said the process needs to be online immediately, and it must be communicated to people who are eligible.
“Those are the kind of small bottlenecks that add up to big problems that we are resolving right now,” McMaster said. “The key is communication, collaboration, and cooperation and making it known to everybody when and where to go to get these shots.”
He referred people to the list on DHEC’s website that shows which hospitals have doses of the vaccine. Click or tap here to find that.
McMaster said some of the issue with the delay was confusion over who was eligible to get the vaccine.
“We expect to see some progress, if we don’t see some progress then we will cause some progress,” the governor said. “We will issue the orders and make the directives necessary to see to it that the people out there -- many of whom are ready and willing to get the vaccination -- can get that vaccination without undue delay.”
McMaster said the workers in Phase 1A should not wait to be contacted but instead reach out to DHEC and local hospitals.
Previously, DHEC had instructed workers to wait to be contacted about getting the vaccine.
Similar guidance had been echoed by Lexington Medical Center. A spokesperson for LexMed said the center was working on a way to accommodate requests for vaccination.
A spokesperson for DHEC sent the following statement:
As Governor McMaster stated, DHEC met with the Governor’s Office Monday afternoon to discuss concerted efforts for increasing individuals’ participation in Phase 1a. CDC guidance originally provided a goal of having 70 percent of Phase 1a individuals vaccinated before advancing to Phase 1b. Over this past weekend, that guidance evolved to now suggest several variables to take into consideration for when to transition, with an overarching theme of supply exceeding demand.
Therefore, to speed up getting people vaccinated, Phase 1a individuals or their employers must have contacted a provider to schedule an appointment by the January 15, 2021, deadline to ensure priority for the vaccine. DHEC will evaluate demand up to January 15, 2021, to determine whether to request providers move forward with scheduling for the next phase of vaccinations.
Several key communications with hospitals and health care associations have been taking place to instill a sense of urgency in having Phase 1a individuals vaccinated as soon as possible.
A spokesperson for Prisma Health sent the following statement:
Prisma Health is supportive of Gov. McMaster’s announcement of a Jan. 15 deadline for Phase 1a-eligible people to register in the CDC system or receive the vaccine. It is our goal to support vaccination distribution to all, as rapidly as possible.
“Our vaccine distribution is going smoothly,” said Dr. Saria Saccocio, Prisma Health Ambulatory Chief Medical Officer, “and we expect to see increased numbers receiving this voluntary vaccine now that we are past the holidays and have opened up both sites and eligible categories. As of Jan. 4, more than 10,773* vaccines had been administered, which is 25% of South Carolina vaccine doses administered.”
Prisma Health received its first vaccine supply on Dec. 15, just before the holidays, at two (2) pilot sites as designated by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). We gave the first vaccines within three (3) hours. (NOTE: The frozen vaccines required thaw time.) Our pilot sites were designated as Greenville Memorial Hospital in Greenville and Richland Hospital in Columbia.
We followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DHEC protocols of distributing the vaccine first to COVID-facing healthcare workers – those in the intensive care units, COVID inpatient rooms, Emergency Departments and hospital drive-through testing sites.
- On Dec. 17, Prisma Health reached out to first responders – EMTs, firefighters, law enforcement – to receive the vaccine.
- On Dec. 23, Prisma Health started rapidly expanding our vaccination sites to all acute hospital campuses, with 11 sites active by Dec. 28. This nearly tripled the number of vaccinations we were performing each day – more than 1,000.
- On Dec. 28, we opened vaccination to all Prisma Health acute care (hospital) team members and outpatient COVID testing sites, all hospital medical staff and hospital Network-member physicians.
- On Dec. 29, we opened vaccination to all Prisma Health outpatient personnel, including outpatient Network members.
- On Dec. 30, after all clinical personnel had received vaccination registration opportunity, we added Prisma Health corporate/administrative personnel as well as all students who are in our clinical learning environment (approximately 2,400).
- On Jan. 4 we began vaccinating community healthcare workers such as physicians, dentists, school nurses and funeral home personnel. Also, our initial Phase 1a team members started receiving their booster vaccine.
Prisma Health reassigned staff to man the vaccination sites, including moving certified nurses who are currently in non-clinical roles to a role of administering vaccines and assigning administrative personnel to handle vaccination paperwork.
Once all healthcare workers and others identified in Phase 1a have been vaccinated or offered the opportunity to receive the vaccine, Prisma Health will help vaccinate individuals in Phase 1b after DHEC provides the protocol. This phase includes essential personnel such as teachers and other school workers, those working in public infrastructure such as sanitation and the U.S. Post Office, and people over the age of 75.
When asked about rising COVID-19 numbers in the state, the governor said he has no intention of imposing new or stricter limitations on businesses or gatherings. He said other states have imposed “draconian limitations” that are “killing jobs” and not helping to stop the spread of the virus.
“Our state is open for business,” McMaster reiterated. “We know what we’re doing. We have managed this well. We have outpaced the other states.”
The governor said he hopes the vaccine effort will have an enormous impact on the state’s COVID-19 numbers.