SC begins vaccinating people 70+, advisory committee says no to prioritizing teachers in next phase

SC begins vaccinating people 70+, advisory committee says no to prioritizing teachers in next phase

ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Vaccination appointments for people 70 years and older started on Wednesday in South Carolina.

DHEC says that population is more than 670,000 that are now eligible to get the vaccine.

Health officials are providing an update now. Watch live below:

To make an appointment you can call the DHEC Care Line at 1-855-472-3432 for assistance with scheduling an appointment. They’ve doubled the Care Line staff to handle the large number of calls.

You can also schedule an appointment online at the DHEC website, which currently includes several major hospitals, seven DHEC sites, a DHEC mobile clinic, and 12 Doctor’s Cares locations. An additional 50 locations will be added to this list and available to provide vaccine by the beginning of next week.

The Care Line experienced long wait times on Wednesday but many were able to make appointments and some of the vaccinations started that same day.

“It’s not 100 percent but I like the 95% chance better than the 0 chance I had earlier,” said Bill Murphy.

Bill Murphy was one of the first in the latest group to get vaccinated in Lancaster. He got his vaccination at the MUSC Lancaster Medical Center.

“It took about 5 minutes total to sign up. I signed up one day and I had the appointment set up for today,” he said.

Murray said it was an easy decision to get vaccinated after COVID-19 started to hit closer to home.

“The people who were getting COVID and passing away from it, the circle started getting closer and closer to us of people we knew versus just a number out there,” he said.

As cases in South Carolina continue to increase, state health leaders say the more people vaccinated the better.

There’s been 5,400 deaths in South Carolina and the current percent positive rate is 27 percent.

“My ultimate goal is to get shots out, shots in arms. Shots in arms, let works on getting shots in arms,” said Jeff Cashman, speaking at the South Carolina COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, who met virtually this afternoon.

One of the discussions of Wednesday afternoon’s meeting was who should be next in line to get the vaccine?

One of the questions was where do teachers fit in?

“What we’re asking for is that when 1B begins that educators are prioritized at the beginning of that phase,” said Ryan Brown, the spokesperson for the SC Department of Ed.

Right now in South Carolina, Phase 1B is for essential workers.

What Brown, teacher groups and the state superintendent is asking the state to do is put teachers in a sub-prioritization group so they are eligible for the vaccine before other essential workers.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman and teachers groups asked DHEC to prioritize teachers in Phase 1B so they can get the vaccine first over other essential workers.

“They are in many cases one person within a 800 sq. foot room with sometimes up to 30 individuals,” said Brown speaking about teachers’ classrooms.

But the idea to sub-prioritize teachers in the next phase was voted down in order to be more fair.

“Are there a lot of healthy teachers who really aren’t exposed are they moved above a group that is more vulnerable than they are,” said one of the other advisory committee members.

It was also mentioned that the state is already worried about their supply of the vaccine so to create more groups and phases could over-complicate the process of getting vaccines into arms.

Teachers and other essential workers will be included in Phase 1B.

People with underlying health conditions will be part of Phase 1C to get the vaccine.

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