SOUTH CAROLINA (WBTV/WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster announced Tuesday that the state was expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to those in Phase 1b starting Monday, March 8.
This will allow roughly 2.7 million people in the state to get the vaccine, officials said.
Phase 1b includes teachers and school support staff, as well as many other frontline essential workers. But it also includes many people not originally categorized under Phase 1b.
This phase of the rollout now includes everyone aged 55 and older, as well as those 16 to 64 who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease and people who are at increased risk of COVID because of settings where they live or work in close contact with others.
People must give proof of their eligibility to get the vaccine. To do that, DHEC said people can show an ID with their age or workplace listed, or by verifying their high-risk medical condition (see what qualifies below).
“Throughout South Carolina’s vaccination efforts, our priority has been – and continues to be – saving lives,” McMaster said. “In the month of February, South Carolina made tremendous progress on expanding access to vaccinations as the supply of vaccine increased. Because of these successes, we’re now in a position to make the majority of South Carolinians eligible to receive the vaccine.”
Beginning March 8, appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine can be made by people in the following groups:
- Anyone age 55 and up
- People with increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
- People aged 16-64 with one or more of the following high-risk medical conditions:
- Cancer (current, not a history of cancer), chronic kidney disease (any stage), chronic lung disease, diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2), Down syndrome, heart disease (congestive heart disease, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension), HIV/AIDS, solid organ transplant, obesity (BMI >30), pregnancy, sickle cell disease.
- People who have a developmental or other severe high-risk disability that makes developing severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection more likely
- Frontline workers with increased occupational risk Frontline workers with increased occupational risk are people who: Must be in-person at their place of work, and perform a job that puts them at increased risk of exposure due to their frequent, close (less than 6 feet) and ongoing (more than 15 minutes) contact with others in the work environment
Examples of frontline workers include, but are not limited to, school staff and daycare workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, law enforcement officers, etc.
- Individuals at increased risk in settings where people are living and working in close contact
- Residents and workers in group home settings for the mentally or physically disabled or those with behavioral or substance abuse conditions
- Workers and residents in homeless shelters
- Workers and residents in community training homes
- State and local correctional facility staff with direct inmate contact
- Correctional and immigration detention facility inmates
- Migrant farmworkers living in shared housing or reliant on shared transportation
- All workers in healthcare and community health settings who have routine, direct patient contact and were not vaccinated in Phase 1a
Based on current vaccine supply levels, DHEC anticipates Phase 1c will begin on April 12, 2021. The phase will include:
- People aged 45 and up
- Essential workers
- This group includes those who work in essential job categories as defined by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) who are not included in Phase 1b because they do not have frequent, close contact with others in the work environment (examples may include construction workers, delivery drivers, utility workers, etc. who do not have frequent, close and ongoing contact with others).
Phase 2 will begin on May 3, 2021, and will include:
- All South Carolinians aged 16 and up
How to make an appointment?
Online appointments can be made by using scdhec.gov/vaxlocator or you can call DHEC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Information Line at 1-866-365-8110 for help.
S.C. Superintendent Molly Spearman says she wants to see schools put together a 5 day-a-week plan immediately. She wants vaccine programs expedited for school districts to get teachers and staff vaccinated immediately.
Some South Carolina teachers traveled to North Carolina to get the COVID-19 shot. While recent news of South Carolina set to receive the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine had some hoping for a quicker vaccine process, others weren’t waiting.
South Carolina is set to receive 41,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. The FDA gave the J&J vaccine, which is also known as the Janssen vaccine, emergency use authorization on Saturday, Feb. 27.
North Carolina will receive 80,000 doses of the one-shot vaccine last week.
“The Janssen vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine that protects people from severe COVID-19 illness,” DHEC officials said. “This vaccine’s development was held to the same rigorous testing, trial and review standards as all other vaccines.”
More than 45,000 people participated in the clinical trial of the new vaccine, DHEC said.
South Carolina is still in Phase 1a of the vaccination process, which includes healthcare workers, long-term care staff and residents, and residents over age 65. In comparison, North Carolina is currently vaccinating those that fall into Group 1, Group 2 and is starting to vaccinate those in Group 3. North Carolina began vaccinating teachers on February 24.
Phase 1b was set to start in South Carolina in early spring, but some teachers weren’t confident with the timeline and instead traveled to North Carolina to get the vaccine.
North Carolina officials say vaccine providers can turn anyone away who does not live, work, or spend significant time in the state. Although county health officials say it’s difficult to enforce and not all vaccine providers request identification.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control estimates there are 1,296,246 people in Phase 1A.
McMaster has been vocally opposed to moving teachers to Phase 1A over concerns the move would divert doses from the elderly.
“We are not going to take a single vaccination away from those who are likely to die to give to someone who is not likely to die from the virus,” McMaster said in a February 4 press conference.
The FDA Emergency Use Authorization for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should bolster the state’s vaccine supply, but it’s unclear what impact that will have on the movement of the phases.
“We believe this new vaccine will help speed up vaccination efforts across the state because it’s a single-dose shot and also can be stored easily, at refrigerated temperatures, for several months,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “The Janssen vaccine will be key to our ongoing plans to bring vaccines out into our communities.”
South Carolina is receiving its first allocation of Janssen vaccine this week, roughly 41,000 doses. DHEC is onboarding additional providers to help distribute the Janssen vaccine across the state.