ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - As South Carolina continues to vaccinate those 70 years and older for COVID-19, health leaders believe it could be months before they move to the next phase.
Vaccination appointments for people 70 years and older started on Wednesday, Jan. 13 in South Carolina.
South Carolina says the vaccine is not currently available to those 65 and older unless they are admitted to a hospital.
DHEC says that population is more than 670,000 that are now eligible to get the vaccine. The state is currently in Phase 1A, which includes healthcare workers and those over age 70. Many appointments are continuing to be scheduled, doctors say, and there are waiting lists at places for the Phase 1A. says
“At this time, we have 100-percent of doses in people’s arms or in the near future scheduled to go in people’s arms,” DHEC Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler said Friday.
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 vaccines are given in two doses. Traxler says the doses are the same as far as chemical makeup, but the first shot “primes” the system, while the second shot boosts the immune system to produce antibodies.
Traxler says DHEC is working on a statewide vaccine appointment portal to help people get vaccines. The agency is also looking for other ways to make sure people without internet can get an appointment.
The Care Line experienced long wait times on opening day but many were able to make appointments and some of the vaccinations started that same day.
Traxler says the state plans to move to the next phase when they see that demand is exceeding supply. Traxler says if the state continues to receive the same amount of vaccine at the speed they’re receiving it now, she anticipates the next phase to begin within months.
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.
But the idea to sub-prioritize teachers in the next phase was voted down in order to be more fair.
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.