S.C. Governor Henry McMaster said Wednesday during a press conference that the first allotment of vaccines that the state will receive will be between 200,000 – 300,000 doses.
“This will not be a fast process,” McMaster said. “This will be a slow process all over the country. Most of South Carolina will not be vaccinated for months.”
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Director of Immunizations Stephen White said that the doses coming to S.C. are only the first dose of a two-dose vaccination, as both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a waiting period of over 20 days before the second and final dose can be given.
“The CDC [Centers for Disease Control] will handle second doses on the back end,” White said, noting that after the first doses are given, the CDC will put the second dose in a booster allocation for the state.
McMaster briefly went through the different phases of vaccine distribution, saying that the first allotment of doses will not even be enough to cover all of the people in the first phase.
That first group will include doctors, physician’s assistants, nurses and nurse’s aides, physical and respiratory therapists, medical students, nursing students, nursing home and long term care facilty residents and staff, medical emergency in correctional facilities, first responders, and home health and hospice workers.
This first phase will also include people aged 75 or older with two or more of the following risk conditions: cancer not in remission, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, disability, heart disease, HIV/AIDS/obesity, pregnancy and sickle cell disease.
Phase 2 of the immunization plan includes pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, grocery store and food service workers, service industry workers, postal workers, public transit workers, K-12 teachers and school staff. This also includes childcare workers, school bus drivers, higher education staff and instructors, and persons 65 or older with one of the above-mentioned conditions.
The final phase, he said, will make the vaccination available to the entire population, but state officials agree that may not happen until later next year.
“We urge everybody to have patience. We’ve got a long way to go before we have managed our way beyond this virus,” McMaster said.
Wednesday’s DHEC numbers for Horry County were 140 cases, and 2,139 across the state, with a 20.5 percent positive.
“This has been an extremely difficult year, so many illnesses, so many lives lost, unfortunately we’re not near the end of this,” said Dr. Linda Bell with DHEC.
Both McMaster, Bell and other experts urged the public to continue with preventative measures of wearing masks, washing hands, and practicing proper social distancing.
“…What it might look like for us if we continue to do what we’re doing now … by April, if things don’t take a different course, we stand to see 1,000 deaths,” Bell said. From the end of November until the beginning of April, an additional 3,000 may die if we don’t do something differently.”
She said this is not about politics.
“[The virus] doesn’t spare people based on your political beliefs,” Bell said.
Dr. David Cole of the Medical University of South Carolina urged the community to think twice before gathering for the holidays and possibly spreading the virus.
“During this holiday season I understand and share the temptation to gather as we have always done. Some people have sacrificed too much for us to falter now. Stay diligent. Now is not the time to let our guard down. Make safe and smart decisions for your loved ones,” Cole said.
White was careful to say that the vaccinations will be an incredible step forward, but it isn't an immediate return to normalcy.
"We will need to continue to wear face masks ... until public health officials recommend otherwise," White said, noting that no steps were skipped in the development of the COVID-19 vaccines. "They went through the same trials, processes, and research before they can be made available. Protecting public health is the reason why vaccines exist."
The vaccines will help the community not to become as sick as they would without the virus, but it doesn't prevent against the spread of the virus, White said.
After the initial allotment of doses, White said they expect to see additional doses each week thereafter.
White said that the new vaccination plan and phasing information can be found on DHEC’s website at https://scdhec.gov/covid19