Special Update -- COVID-19 Vaccine Information

January 3, 2021

Good afternoon! Like most of you, I have had questions about the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in South Carolina. Last Wednesday, I called the Acting Director of DHEC to urge the agency to provide more information to the public and to expedite the vaccination process. On Thursday, Governor McMaster issued a written request to DHEC for more details to be provided to the public about the vaccine distribution in our state. Since Thursday afternoon, DHEC has held two press conferences on this topic and released more information. This update takes that information and other details that I have gathered to provide you and your family with updated information as to the vaccine distribution in South Carolina. DHEC's Interim Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler expects the vaccinations given in our state to accelerate rapidly in January. Please let me know if you have more questions, and I will continue to provide periodic updates as more information is provided to the legislature and the public. I will also continue to push for improvements to the vaccination process and welcome your feedback and ideas to share with DHEC and other state officials. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the S.C. Senate.

 

SCDHEC COVID-19 Vaccine Information

SCDHEC COVID-19 Vaccine Weblinks: SCDHEC's information as to the COVID-19 Vaccine distribution in South Carolina can be found here. The DHEC Vaccine Plan can be seen here.

What are the Phases of Distribution under the Current Plan?: The following outline provides an overview of the anticipated categories and time for each phase. This is subject to change at any time for many reasons, such as a change in federal guidance or in the DHEC Vaccine Advisory Committee's recommendations for South Carolina.

Phase 1a (Early Winter) – Vaccinations for Phase 1a is anticipated to continue through February 2021. Phase 1 a includes:

  • Residents and staff of long-term care facilities
  • Healthcare personnel, with initial focus on healthcare workers critical to the mission of preventing death. For a complete list of those workers currently considered in Phase 1a, go here.
  • Phase 1A Guidance can be seen here.

Phase 1b (Late Winter to early Spring) – Based on current CDC guidance, the state will move into Phase 1b once 70 percent of South Carolinians identified in Phase 1a have been vaccinated. Phase 1b includes:

  • Persons aged 75 years and older (with or without underlying health conditions)
  • Frontline essential workers (sectors included by ACIP include fire fighters, law enforcement officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, United States Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the educational sector—teachers, support staff, and daycare workers)

Phase 1c includes (Late Winter to early Spring):

  • Essential workers not included in Phase 1b (examples included by ACIP include people who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, and public health staff who are non-frontline healthcare workers)
  • Persons aged 65-74 years (with or without underlying health conditions)
  • Persons aged 16-64 years with underlying health conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19 (more information to follow from the SC COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee)

Spring to Summer – Phase 2 is anticipated to begin in Spring 2021, with the vaccines expected to become available for the general public during the summer and fall of 2021.

How Many Vaccines Have Been Given?: As of today, DHEC reports that 42,577 vaccinations have been given in South Carolina. (Georgia reports 76,742.) The total received in South Carolina to date since December 18 is 112,125. Those numbers will be updated daily in the VAMS Database and the January 3 data can be seen here.

When Will DHEC Launch the Online Vaccine Overview Dashboard?: That will launch this week on Wednesday, January 6. The Georgia Department of Public Health recently launched a vaccine dashboard. That can be seen here.

Why Have Some Hospitals Reported Administering More Doses Than What is Represented for their facility in the VAMS Database?: DHEC says this is because of two main reasons:

                       (1)  The timing of when a vaccine shipment is received by a provider versus when it’s reported as delivered in VAMS in addition to the time between when the provider administers the vaccine to an individual and when the provider is then able to actually enter that information into the VAMS database.

For example, as of January 1, Aiken Regional Medical Center had administered 366 doses based on the Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 survey, but 325 doses appeared in the federal VAMS database.

                       (2)  Current vaccine inventory is based on five doses per vial, however extra amounts of vaccine in some vials is allowing providers to administer six or seven shots per vial.

Why are More Than 60% of Vaccines in S.C. Not Yet Given to People in Phase 1A?: DHEC says that health care facilities are administering vaccines using available appropriate staff and this varies from hospital to hospital.

Has DHEC Engaged the SC National Guard to Help with Vaccinations?: DHEC reports that it is in discussions now with the SC National Guard to assist with vaccinations around the state.

Does the State Have Sufficient Ultra Cold Storage for the Vaccines?: DHEC says that it has identified locations in the state to store more than two (2) million doses of the vaccine at one time.

Will DHEC Reallocate Vaccine if Needed to Other Parts of the State?: Yes, DHEC says it will reallocate if needed as more vaccine from current and future providers become available. DHEC is currently monitoring vaccine allocation across our state and will reallocate vaccines to areas that need them. DHEC will not allow facilities to hoard or stockpile vaccines.

Where Can I Register to Sign Up for the Vaccine?: DHEC officials said they will not be registering any residents to a vaccine list. DHEC says that those individuals 75 or older who are not living in a nursing home will have to likely wait until Phase 1B.

How Will DHEC Notify the Public When Phase 1B Starts?: DHEC will notify the press, hospitals, emergency management officials, elected officials, and others.

What is DHEC Doing to Coordinate Vaccinating Teachers and School Staff?: DHEC is working through the specifics with the State Department of Education.

Moderna/LTCF Vaccine Data: Residents and staff of long-term care facilities and nursing homes that are currently being vaccinated through the Long-Term Care Program managed by the CDC are recorded separately in a national database called Tiberius. Vaccine information is not expected to be available through Tiberius until the week of January 4, and DHEC will provide more information as it becomes available through this federally managed database.

County Level Case Data: DHEC's cumulative cases by county can be seen here.

Answers to Other Frequently Asked Questions?: DHEC prepared this link to other frequently asked questions with answers.

DHEC's Media Briefings: DHEC has committed to holding multiple updates a week on the status of the vaccination plan. The December 31, 2020 update can be seen here. The January 2, 2021 update can be seen here.

CDC Vaccine Data Information: The National Center for Disease Control (CDC) has an extensive COVID-19 vaccine webpage with links that can be seen here.

S.C. Hospital Association COVID-19 Vaccine Page: For the Hospital Association's webpage and information, go here.

Be Aware of Vaccine Scams: Unfortunately, there are those who will try to take advantage of others by using fraudulent scams and other means. Please be vigilant and if you see or hear or a suspected vaccine scam, report it to law enforcement or email me at tom@senatortomyoung.com. To learn more about avoiding such scams, go here.

Prevent the Spread of the Virus: COVID-19 is commonly spread through air by coughing and sneezing; close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; or touching an object with the virus and making contact with mouth, nose, or eyes.To prevent the spread of illness, remember to do the following:

  • Practice good hygiene;
  • Wash your hands;
  • Cover your cough;
  • Wear a mask in public;
  • Those who feel sick should stay home from school and work and not attend public gatherings.

COVID-19 Testing

Greater Aiken -- USC Aiken Convocation Center: A free testing site operates six days a week (every day but Tuesday) from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the USC Aiken Convocation Center. The test is a saliva test and results are returned in 24-48 hours. Residents are not required to bring an insurance card, but will need a driver’s license or a USC Aiken ID. To pre-register, go here. For more information, call Deri Wills at 803-641-3787 or email deriw@usca.edu.

Greater North Augusta -- True North Church: A free testing site operates five days a week (not Saturday and Sunday) from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm at True North Church, 1060 West Martintown Road. The test is a saliva test and results are returned in 24-48 hours. Residents are not required to bring an insurance card, but will need a driver’s license. To pre-register, go here.

Other Testing Locations: To see other locations for testing locations in an area any given week, go here.