Officials in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties are waiting to be able to provide the general population with vaccinations against the coronavirus, but challenges remain.
Meanwhile, Bamberg County is planning a coronavirus vaccination drive on Friday.
“The number of locations currently able to schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccine is limited because South Carolina, like all states, has limited doses of vaccine,” S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesperson Laura Renwick said in an email.
“As the federal government is able to distribute more and more doses to our state, more and more locations will begin to have doses available and be able to schedule more appointments for those 70 and older,” she said.
DHEC’s online map showing locations accepting appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine went live Wednesday at scdhec.gov/vaxlocator. It provides contact information for scheduling appointments.
There are two sites in Orangeburg. Neither are currently accepting appointments from the general population. There is no site in Calhoun County.
While the state has included individuals age 70 and older with health care workers in the first phase of the vaccination rollout, the Regional Medical Center has announced that it has no plans to vaccinate the general population right now.
Interim CEO and President Kirk Wilson says RMC is instead focusing on inoculating health care workers across Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.
Doctors Care Orangeburg at 1748 St. Matthews Road is the only other site included on the map for Orangeburg County and is also not accepting any appointments.
Renwick said the information in the locator map is provided to DHEC with assistance from the South Carolina Hospital Association and other vaccine providers and its status can change based on vaccine availability.
“The status of facilities on the map can change daily, and more locations will be added to the map in the coming days and weeks. DHEC is also working to ensure locations are able to provide vaccine in rural and underserved communities,” she said.
Individuals are asked to check the vaccine locator map regularly for updated information.
DHEC has also set up a Care Line at 1-855-472-3432 for assistance in locating the contact information for scheduling an appointment, one which “is expected to continue to experience high call volume,” Renwick said.
“We ask all South Carolinians to please be patient as we work to make certain the limited doses of COVID-19 vaccine that's available in our state are provided first and foremost to those most vulnerable to this deadly disease.
“South Carolina receives weekly shipments of vaccine from the federal government, typically at the beginning of each week. The most current vaccine allocation information for South Carolina is available at scdhec.gov/vaxfacts,” she said.
In the meantime, county officials are awaiting direction from the state on when and where they will receive the vaccine.
Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said, “What's on the radar right now is them getting enough vaccine in to the state. I know of at least one pharmacy that is in the mix to try and get the vaccine and administer it when it comes in.
“We're just waiting on DHEC to release it. They're just waiting on getting enough in to do it.”
He said he has been working with a local pharmacy to handle vaccine distribution for individuals 70 and older.
“We want to get the vaccine as fast as we can here for the people who are in the phase to get it. We've been working through Phase 1a, getting the EMS responders, hospital staff and people like that vaccinated. We're getting the vaccine down for that and getting that done,” Staley said.
He said he has been coordinating with DHEC officials to try to get more pharmacies up and able to provide the vaccine locally to the general population of those age 70 and older.
“We're working it. I'm pushing it and trying to get the vaccine here for that age group. The key to some of that is going to be monitoring the DHEC website. They'll bring sites on as they get enough vaccine to distribute to the sites,” Staley said.
“We're trying to work with some of our pharmacies to make sure they're geared up and in place and ready to start doing whenever it comes in,” he said.
Bamberg County has announced that DHEC will host a COVID-19 vaccination drive in Bamberg County from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15
Individuals who are eligible to be vaccinated in DHEC’s vaccination phase 1a or individuals 70 or older can pre-register to receive the vaccine. To pre-register, fill out the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/NVF763K
The deadline to complete the survey is 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.
All vaccines are first-come, first-served and individuals must provide proof of eligibility under phase 1a requirements or have identification that validates an age of 70 or older.
An email will be sent to confirm appointments.
For questions, call Bamberg County Emergency Services at 803-245-4313, option 1, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave Chojnacki, director of emergency management in Calhoun County, said, “We have submitted our application for EMS to be a provider. It has been approved, and now we're waiting for the application to be activated. When that happens, then we should be able to receive the vaccine and start offering it.”
“Currently our employees in EMS and law enforcement and fire, those that are eligible to receive the vaccine as medical first responders, are receiving it through RMC,” he said.
He said once the county's application has been approved, then the county can begin vaccinating those in the local community age 70 and older.
“We've got everything we need to do that, all of the supplies and equipment and everything. It's just a matter of DHEC getting us activated in their system,” Chojnacki said.
He said does not know how long that process will be, but that it is important to be able to provide the vaccine locally.
“It's going to certainly help the residents of Calhoun County so that they can get it locally in the county. That's what we're looking to do, service the citizens of Calhoun County so that they don't have to go outside of the county to receive it. It might be a hardship for some of our residents to do so. So we're just looking to make life as easy for them as possible,” Chojnacki said.
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