CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination as early as Wednesday.
On Monday, Governor Henry McMaster directed the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to administer the vaccine to residents over 70-years-old, beginning January 13.
Healthcare experts estimate more than 60% of the state’s COVID-19 related deaths have occurred among those 70 and older, making this a critical initiative.
Interim Public Health Director for DHEC, Dr. Brannon Traxler, confirms that the age group is seeing the highest mortality rate among South Carolinians.
“More than 67%, two thirds of COVID-19 deaths in South Carolina have been among those age 70 years and older,” says Dr. Traxler.
Healthcare professionals say one of the biggest obstacles with vaccinating the nearly 627,800 South Carolinians over 70 could be getting in contact with them.
“They’re essentially in quarantine,” says Dr. Danielle Shurerur with the Medical University of South Carolina. “They’re not participating in the usual activities they used to, so we’re going to have to get really creative.”
“If they’re eligible they schedule online and pick an appointment and show up with a driver’s license and get their vaccine,” says Dr. Shurerur.
While a smaller number of hospitals are ready to roll out the process this week, more than 50 additional locations preparing to vaccinate the age group will come online as early as next week.
“We will continue to work to have more and more locations offering the vaccine, especially in those rural and underserved communities who may not have a healthcare facility or hospital nearby,” says Dr. Traxler.
Both MUSC and Roper St. Francis Hospital will participate in this phase of vaccine rollout. MUSC will start vaccinations on Wednesday, officials with Roper St. Francis say they are finalizing plans and expect to begin vaccinating those over 70-years-old on January 20th.
Trident Health Center and the Colleton Medical Center say they will not participate. Trident says they decided not participate due to uncertainty the state can deliver the vaccine on a regular schedule.