Eighty first responders who work for the city of Myrtle Beach have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Those emergency workers include 35 employees at the city’s fire department and 45 workers from the Myrtle Beach Police Department, Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Tom Gwyer said Thursday during a city council workshop.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government's Operation Warp Speed program was initiated with the goal of developing, manufacturing and distributing 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19 vaccines.
The state created a COVID-19 vaccine task force, which includes the directors of the S.C. Emergency Management Division and DHEC, the adjutant general of the state National Guard and the S.C. state epidemiologist, also with DHEC.
Right now in South Carolina, vaccines are being distributed and administered in two phases, with each phase including different groups of people able to receive the immunizations. Eventually, everyone will be able to get vaccinated.
Currently South Carolina is in Phase 1a, and there are a limited supply of vaccine doses; as of now, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only vaccine available for Phase 1a individuals who aren't long-term care facility residents or staff members.
Phase 1a includes healthcare workers, residents and staff members of long-term care facilities in addition to police, EMS and fire personnel who provide emergency medical care, including volunteers.
We are excited to announce that MBPD officers have begun receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. We are so thankful and...Posted by Myrtle Beach Police Department on Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Phase 1b, which could begin in the late winter, includes all people ages 75 years or older and essential workers on the frontline including grocery store workers, teachers, food and agricultural workers, postal workers, manufacturers and public transit workers. Gwyer expects the city’s public works employees to fall under that category.
Those ages 65-74 as well as people who are 16-64 with certain underlying health conditions which put them at high risk for serious disease fall into Phase 1c, anticipated for the early spring.
Included in Phase 2, are all folks who wish to be vaccinated, with ages recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
“Phase 2 vaccinations are anticipated to begin in late Spring 2021, with the vaccines expected to become available for the general public during the summer and fall of 2021,” a news release from DHEC said.
Like other parts of the country, the Grand Strand has witnessed a recent surge in COVID-19 cases that’s similar to a spike that was seen this past summer.
“We’re certainly in an uptick as of late,” Gwyer said.
There were 12 extended care facilities in Horry County with "active outbreak" status as of 10 a.m. Sunday, according to DHEC, meaning one or more cases by a resident and/or staff member were reported in the previous 14 days.
As of Thursday, 310,246 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported so far in South Carolina – 5,189 of those patients died in connection to the disease.
DHEC has reported 22,345 confirmed cases of the disease in Horry County, and 344 of those patients died in connection to COVID-19. There have been 221,021 tests administered with 16.5% of those being positive.
As of Wednesday, 81 Myrtle Beach city employees were being quarantined out of precaution.
Horry County officials are still finalizing their vaccination plan for first responders, county spokeswoman Kelly Moore said.