SCDHEC Board decides new plan to give out vaccines, concerns for rural areas

S.C. vaccine doses to be distributed by population

LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) -South Carolina’s board voted on a clearer plan to give out COVID-19 vaccine doses across the state.

Counties with a bigger population get more COVID-19 vaccine doses.

It replaces the current plan where providers in smaller counties wait to get doses from providers in bigger counties.

Leaders hope it will help with efficiency and equity within the state, but there is some concern rural areas are still getting left behind.

There was not an allocation model in place before the decision Tuesday, according to Interim Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler.

That caused a problem the last couple of weeks when DHEC added the 70 and older population to Phase 1A.

It caused vaccine locations to ask for four times as many doses to keep up with demand.

Traxler says having a set model makes it more equitable across the board.

Each county gets doses based on population size. WBTV’s largest county in the viewing area, York County, would get more than 3,000 doses a week.

That compares to our smaller county, Chester, getting about 360 a week.

The board hopes this can help make sure every county is getting enough doses.

”We’re already getting it out there widely,” said Marshall Taylor. “Now we are trying to put some firmer numbers out there to make sure there’s some equitable allocation across the state.”

Some board members think this new plan cannot be equitable since the areas with the most need are mostly rural.

”I’m just putting my trust in God and hoping that one day it will happen,” said Mary Talford.

She is in Phase 1A, but had trouble getting a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Talford is worried for herself and others in rural areas having access to the vaccine.

”It seems to me that that should have been looked into before giving the vaccine,” Talford said. “You know, if we’re gonna have enough for this area, if we’re gonna have enough for that area.”

It is a concern shared by some of the Department of Health and Environmental Control board members.

”My concern is that these rural communities aren’t getting any service and they are at risk,” said Alex Singleton, DHEC board member.

The board is trying to change this by giving a set number of vaccines to each county instead of whoever requests doses.

Member Jim Creel, who voted against this plan, says the most need is in the rural communities.

”Those that are at greatest risk or most vulnerable need to be at the head of the list,” said Creel.

Most of the board agrees the goal is more shots in arms. They feel the new allocation plan gives the small counties a chance to show what they can handle.

”Whatever gets it out the fastest to me, we just gotta follow that path,” said board member Rick Lee.

The board is going to come back in two weeks to decide if this new plan is working.

The board plans to see how this will work for the next two and a half weeks before making it the permanent plan.

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