YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) -The South Carolina Department of Health and Environment (DHEC) is trying to cover racial disparities in vaccine distribution in the state.
In South Carolina, healthcare workers, nursing home residents and those 65 and older are getting vaccinated right now. WBTV looked over DHEC’s newest demographics database.
WBTV could not find specific breakdowns on how many eligible White and Black South Carolinians there are. The gap could close when more people become eligible, but right now, DHEC says there is a racial discrepancy in the numbers.
”I am just not sold on it,” says Tabatha Strother, who does not plan on getting the vaccine. “Like I tell everybody, if you pray about it, you do your research and you decided what’s best for you. But as for me right now, no.”
Some Black people, like Strother, still struggle to trust vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine is not the first time health experts have seen this hesitancy and it probably will not be the last. However, health experts point to it as why Black people are not getting vaccinated at the same rates as White people.
White South Carolinians make up two thirds of the vaccine share, at about 63 percent, with Black South Carolinas making up an eighth, at 12.5 percent. Based on overall population size of each race, for every vaccinated Black South Carolinian, there are two vaccinated White South Carolinians.
Strothers says vaccine hesitancy should not be the only blame.
”People who want it have to drive 10 miles to get to where the nearest location is,” she says.
Strothers and her family live in Chester County—a rural county with only vaccine sites in the town of Chester. Towns in the county like Richburg, Edgemoor, and Blackstock are miles away from the sites. 10 miles, as Strothers says, when you do not have a car or bus makes getting a vaccine almost impossible.
”We want all South Carolinians to have fair, equal and ethical access to their COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dr. Bell.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Dr. Linda Bell says the agency is aware of the problem. When WBTV asked how they plan to fix it, she addressed more of the vaccine hesitancy aspect. She says the agency plans to use community outreach through churches and organizations.
For weeks, DHEC has stressed getting more resources to rural areas and the work that needs to be done, but Bell did not address what work has been done to improve it.
”If you really want people to have this vaccine then now is the time to show that,” says Strother.
Even with the efforts to get vaccines to rural areas, it does not mean people will trust it. Vaccine hesitancy is still a major hurdle for the state that it will need to address as supply improves.