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S.C. people 70 and over can sign up to get vaccine
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S.C. people 70 and over can sign up to get vaccine

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COLUMBIA — South Carolina will let people ages 70 and older schedule appointments for the coronavirus vaccine starting Wednesday.

Individuals eligible to receive vaccine can schedule an appointment using this online resource or by calling the DHEC Care Line at 1-855-472-3432, which currently includes several major hospitals, seven DHEC sites, a DHEC mobile clinic, and 12 Doctor’s Cares locations. An additional 50 locations will be added to this list and available to provide vaccine by the beginning of next week.

State officials said Monday that they were confident the majority of people in the state's earliest phase who wanted to be vaccinated — healthcare workers and those living and working in long-term care facilities — had already received their shots or scheduled appointments.

“Because we’ve seen a dramatic acceleration in vaccine usage and appointments in the last week, we have decided to speed things up again,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement. “We know that those 70 and older are at the greatest risk of dying from COVID-19. Making sure they have expedited access to the vaccine will help save lives.”

Officials estimate about 627,800 South Carolinians are 70 or older, and many have already received the vaccine because they were eligible earlier. Those who meet the age requirement are now eligible regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions.

Across the state, more than two-thirds of COVID-19 deaths have been among people ages 70 and older. That's a much higher death rate per capita compared to COVID-19 deaths among those younger than 70, said Interim Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler.

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Eligible South Carolinians can signup for appointments with vaccine providers including major hospitals, seven sites and a mobile clinic run by the Department of Health and Environmental Control, and some urgent care facilities. The health agency said it will add another 50 locations by the beginning of next week.

States are moving to expedite their vaccine rollouts as cases have skyrocketed across the nation. In South Carolina, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 1,440.4 over the past two weeks, an increase of 44.3%, according to Johns Hopkins.

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The governor's office also said Monday that McMaster still planned to give his annual State of the State address in-person this week, resisting calls to hold the event virtually by Democrats who deemed an in-person gathering “deeply irresponsible” during a pandemic.

Nearly 200 state officials along with staffers, media and other attendees typically gather in the House chamber of the Statehouse to hear the Republican governor's remarks, which are scheduled for Wednesday evening this year. But in a pandemic, the State of the State could become a superspreader event, Senate Democratic leaders Brad Hutto and Ronnie Sabb wrote in a letter to the governor Monday.

“Upholding the tradition for the state of the state this year is simply not worth the destruction it could bring to our colleagues and their communities when they return home,” the letter reads. ”If the grandeur of an in-person audience is what you are seeking, we ask that you consider putting the interest of public health above conceit."

McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said the governor's office has worked with House and Senate staff to limit the number of people in the chamber to ensure social distancing.

Some South Carolina schools are also enforcing social distancing, while others have reverted to virtual learning as districts begin their spring semesters this month.

Grassroots teacher group SC for Ed said in a statement that many schools are continuing in-person learning, a option the governor and some top lawmakers have pushed for in recent months, in spite of a high rate of community spread. The group added that the decision to keep schools open among all-time-high numbers and hospitals running out of capacity placed both students and teachers in harm's way.

And mayors across the state are again tightening coronavirus restrictions. In Charleston, Mayor John Tecklenberg rolled back the city's re-opening plan by a phase, sending municipal employees back to working from home and putting the issuance of city permits on pause.

In Clemson, Mayor Robert Halfacre said on Facebook that the city would shut down businesses that don't disperse crowds and comply with city rules, as well as inform Clemson University of any students arrested or ticketed. That followed a weekend of reports of multiple gatherings in downtown bars in the college town where students have returned for the semester.

What to Know

  • Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 13, any South Carolina resident who’s at least 70 years old can schedule their appointment for receiving vaccine
     
  • Vaccine can only be administered by appointment – you can’t walk into a health care facility and ask for vaccine
     
  • Residents will be asked to provide a driver’s license or other form of ID at their appointment that confirms their age and, therefore, their eligibility to receive vaccine
  • Individuals eligible to receive vaccine can schedule an appointment using this online resource or by calling the DHEC Care Line at 1-855-472-3432 which currently includes several major hospitals, seven DHEC sites, a DHEC mobile clinic, and 12 Doctor’s Cares locations. An additional 50 locations will be added to this list and available to provide vaccine by the beginning of next week.
     
  • As long-term care facility residents and staff continue to receive their Moderna vaccine through the federal Long-Term Care program, the state can soon redirect some Moderna vaccine from that program and make it available to others
     
  • South Carolina is committed to making the limited supply of COVID-19 available to rural and unserved communities who have residents currently eligible to receive vaccine. This is occurring through:
    • an increased number of DHEC mobile clinic locations, where DHEC can bring the vaccine to communities without nearby locations offering vaccine
    • working with the South Carolina Vaccine Advisory Committee, Office of Rural Health, Office of Minority Affairs, South Carolina Hospital Association, South Carolina Medical Association, and other state and local partners to establish vaccine provider locations to rural and underserved communities
    • continuing to educate and inform rural, minority, and non-White communities about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine
       
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two shots separated by 21 days. The Moderna vaccine requires two shots separated by 28 days. You need to receive both shots of the same product; vaccine brands are not interchangeable.
  • Both shots are needed for complete protection against COVID-19. After receiving both shots, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are 94-95 percent effective in preventing disease.
  • Individuals will receive a vaccine card after receiving their first shot, reminding them when their second shot is due. Most providers are also issuing second-dose appointment reminders to patients by way of phone calls, emails or text messages.
  • Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for some people, it can cause severe illness or death.
  • Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like masks and physical distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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