Vaccine supply from federal government remains limited


As older South Carolinians continue trying to schedule appointments to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, the state's public health department is awaiting more supply from the federal government.

In a media briefing Monday, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Interim Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said 100% of the vaccine in the state has either been given or is allocated to already-scheduled appointments.

"The flow from the federal government is just not enough," she said.

While states across the nation are trying to combat a slow rollout and distribute and disseminate shots at an "unprecedented scale and unprecedented timeline," South Carolina is among the worst states for the percentage of residents who have received one or both shots.

Traxler said DHEC is still receiving the same number of doses weekly that the department was when the rollout began. She said she doesn't foresee the situation changing until at least the beginning of February.

As of Monday, DHEC has received 200,075 total doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and 69% of those have been shot into arms.

The state expanded eligibility to anyone aged 70 or older on Jan. 13, and appointments almost immediately filled. Traxler said the care line is taking about 24,000 calls a day, more than DHEC usually sees in a week. Call line agents recently hired have doubled the workforce to about 60.

Those aged 70 and older now join frontline health care workers and hospital patients 65 and older - if they don't have COVID-19 and a health care professional recommends it - as those who can receive their two shots, which should be given 21 days apart.

Residents and staff of long-term care facilities enrolled in the federal LTCF program are eligible to receive the Moderna vaccine, which is being administered by CVS and Walgreens pharmacists. DHEC data show 117,900 Moderna doses have been received, of which 17,376 have been administered to residents and 8,633 to staff.

Traxler recommended those who are eligible continue to schedule an appointment and that times and locations will be added as they become available. She urged people to only schedule one appointment after hearing reports of people scheduling two "to make sure they get one." That, she said, takes a time slot away from someone else.

An additional 2,946 confirmed cases were reported by DHEC Monday, including 65 in Sumter, 28 in Clarendon and 19 in Lee counties.

Nearly 355,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in South Carolina, and more than 5,660 have died.

Traxler said the department is still seeing a high level of community spread in all 46 counties but that the largest source of new cases is household transmission, meaning family members and friends gathering in small groups.