HC Public Health Officials Provide Update on COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Efforts

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 31, 2020

COLOMBIA, South Carolina – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) today provided the following update on state distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, including progress on Status in the vaccination of those in phase 1a and the efforts underway to protect the health and safety of all South Carolinians:

Since receiving the first doses of the vaccine on December 14, we remain encouraged by the commitment of Southern Carolinians to continue to do their part in the fight against COVID-19 by getting vaccinated. This morning, 39,100 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in South Carolina, with vaccines continuing to be administered daily.

Distributing massive doses of COVID-19 vaccine quickly, efficiently, and fairly represents a public health logistical effort on a scale never seen before in the United States and is a massive undertaking. DHEC is leading this effort in South Carolina, but it could not be accomplished without our many state and federal partners.

Our ultimate goal is to save lives. DHEC remains committed to working with our partners to ensure that anyone who wants to be immune to COVID-19 in South Carolina will be vaccinated, but it will take time. It is important to recognize that this is a rapidly evolving event. This vaccine is unlike any vaccine we have encountered before.

South Carolina, like other states, has faced several challenges due to the unique demands of mass distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Challenges to date include limited vaccine supplies during phased deployment, complex logistics, and adapting to changes in federal guidelines. DHEC anticipates evolving additional challenges, but is confident that with collaborative problem solving and the support of our partners, we will meet each new challenge head-on.

Preparing for historical ultra-cold storage requirements
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the first licensed vaccine in history to be stored at ultra-cold freezing temperatures, requiring locations that receive it to have specialized ultra-cold freezers with monitoring capabilities. temperature in place. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine also only ships in 975-dose packages, which means that the location that receives direct shipment of it must have the capacity to deliver it in a timely manner or store it in an ultra-freezer. cold. As these logistical challenges complicate vaccine distribution, DHEC and our partners identified storage opportunities and increased their capacity months ago.

Adapt to rapidly changing federal guidelines
In addition, federal guidelines for populations to be vaccinated changed as the initial vaccine distributions were sent to states. This resulted in a significant increase in the population included in phase 1a. In South Carolina and other states, agencies such as DHEC then had to review and modify some of the plans and protocols in place for distribution in the state. The same assessment and changes then had to be made at the local level as hospitals and distribution sites began to receive shipments and vaccinate their workers. Sites now actively vaccinate according to state and federal guidelines as aggressively as possible.

Similar to the rest of the nation, the initial process required states to remain flexible as we adapt and adapt to changing circumstances. Work continues at large vaccination sites across the state with plans to begin distribution to smaller facilities next week.

Go from the initial phase to widespread availability in summer
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) provided guidance for the categories of people to be included in phases 1a, 1b and 1c. South Carolina is currently in phase 1a and vaccinating individuals in this phase according to the recommendations of the SC COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee based on the ACIP guidelines. The committee is currently working to translate the national recommendations from Phase 1b and Phase 1c into action in South Carolina. The following diagram gives an overview of the categories foreseen for each phase. This is subject to change at any time for many reasons, such as a change in federal guidelines or in the recommendations of the SC COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee for South Carolina.

Phase 1a

  • Residents and staff of long-term care facilities
  • Healthcare workers (with an initial focus on healthcare workers essential to the mission of preventing death), including:
    • People providing direct medical care to patients with suspected and / or confirmed COVID-19: internal medical staff (i.e., speech-language pathologists providing swallowing assessments during a patient’s infectious period, occupational therapists, translators in direct contact with the patient, students (medical, nurse, PT, RT)
    • Auxiliary personnel interacting directly with patients suspected and / or confirmed of COVID-19: laboratory personnel handling potentially infectious samples, phlebotomists and radiology technicians
    • Emergency room staff in the above categories who provide direct care to patients at high risk of exposure to undiagnosed, suspected and / or confirmed COVID-19 patients
    • Paid and volunteer medical first responders (EMS, firefighters and law enforcement who provide emergency medical services as certified paramedics or paramedics) and hospital transport personnel in direct contact with suspected and / or confirmed patients of COVID-19
    • Persons providing direct medical care in penitentiary establishments
    • People providing direct medical care in dialysis and infusion centers
    • Outpatient medical workers treating people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection
    • Workers in settings where monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 infusions are administered
    • Home health workers and hospices
    • Nurses / public health workers at risk of exposure to COVID-19
    • Autopsy room staff, coroners, embalmers and funeral home staff at risk of exposure to bodily fluids
    • Dentists and dental hygienists and assistants

Phase 1b

  • People aged 75 and over (with or without underlying health problems)
  • Essential Front Line Workers (Sectors included by ACIP include firefighters, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, food and agriculture workers, U.S. postal workers United, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, transit workers, and those working in education – teachers, support staff and educators)

Phase 1c

  • Essential workers not included in phase 1b (examples included by ACIP include people working in transport and logistics, catering, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, l (energy, law, media, public safety and non-frontline health workers)
  • People aged 65 to 74 (with or without underlying health problems)
  • People aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 (more to follow from the SC COVID-19 Advisory Committee on Vaccines)

As vaccine supply increases, ACIP’s immunization recommendations will expand to include more groups, in phases 2 and possibly 3. The following diagram provides an overview of the estimated timeframes for each phase:

  • Beginning of winter – Vaccinations for phase 1a are expected to continue until February 2021.
  • Late Winter to Early Spring – Based on current CDC guidelines, the state will move to phase 1b once 70 percent of South Carolinians identified in phase 1a have been vaccinated.
  • Spring to summer – Phase 2 is expected to begin in spring 2021, with vaccines expected to be available to the general public during summer and fall 2021.

Understand the next steps for phased vaccine deployment
Everyone in our state who wants to be vaccinated will have their turn. In the meantime, we are committed to keeping you informed of the progress of the phased approach to vaccine administration and will let you know when and where you can receive it. We call on all people in South Carolina to take a step back until it is their turn in the plan.

For people in phase 1a who have not yet been contacted regarding a vaccination opportunity, DHEC works with our partners SCHA and SCMA as well as with many independent providers and vaccination sites to integrate them and allocate and distribute vaccines. in the coming weeks. As new vaccination locations become available, we will contact healthcare workers through their employers, associations or licensing entities to provide a way for them to sign up if they wish to be contacted when it is theirs. turn to make an appointment for vaccination. It will take several weeks to a few months to vaccinate everyone in Phase 1a, so please be patient as we go through this process.

As more information becomes available, we will update our website at scdhec.gov/vaxfacts.

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