COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV/WMBF) - South Carolina health leaders spoke on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout Wednesday afternoon.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) held a 30-minute statewide media briefing to provide the update.
The briefing was led by Dr. Linda Bell, the state epidemiologist, and Nick Davidson, the senior deputy for Public Health.
Recently, the state’s health department has been under scrutiny for the vaccine rollout.
South Carolina lawmakers met Tuesday to better understand the problems and pitfalls. Two major hospital systems had a chance to lay out the improvements DHEC needs to make.
“Public confusion and frustration about the vaccine distribution process in our state remains high,” South Carolina State Rep. Wes Newton said, who chairs the Legislative Oversight Committee.
The group’s Ad Hoc Committee to Study DHEC’s Receipt and Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines gathered to first and foremost address problems seen with providers being able to carry out their second dose appointments.
Prisma Health’s Dr. Saria Saccocio said communication is critical throughout the process. She described to the committee that first and second doses just recently started being separated in their weekly shipments.
“We were informed last night that we will only receive second doses based on the first doses that were allocated 21 days ago,” Saccocio said. “Now I’ll remind everyone the message that we heard loud and clear from Governor McMaster three weeks ago, which was to use every single vaccine in your supply.”
She said that’s exactly what they did, and now they’re at a point of administering vaccines where the majority of their patients need their second dose.
“We will only receive 4,875 doses, for example, for our Upstate market. Twenty-one days ago, we vaccinated 9,009 patients,” she explained. “We have no choice but to utilize our first dose allocation to ensure we stay on schedule, and again - we’re committed to this.”
The consequence is that they won’t be able to add further first-dose appointments until they have more supply on hand.
MUSC’s CEO Dr. Patrick Cawley described the process of receiving allocations as almost comical at this point because they don’t really know how many vaccine doses they’ll get until they open the box.
“DHEC has to communicate better with providers. We shouldn’t have this box surprise on a Monday or Tuesday,” Cawley said.
Newton pressed DHEC for the assertion that South Carolinians will be guaranteed a second dose shot.
“There is no higher priority group than the folks who’ve gotten their first dose, and we’ve had some bumps along the way, and we’ve been far from perfect, and we need to improve,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC’S newly-confirmed director. “I think we have some things in place that we’re going to do that; we’re working with our partners. But to me, getting the second dose is the top priority in terms of our vaccination schedule.”