COLUMBIA, S.C. — After coronavirus vaccine shipment delays caused appointment cancellations, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says they're going to change the way they allocate doses.
Director of DHEC, Dr. Edward Simmer, said the main challenge they’re facing is not getting enough coronavirus vaccine from the federal government. As a result, many people are having their second dose appointments delayed.
"We were informed last night, we will only receive second doses based on the first doses we were allocated 21 days ago," said Dr. Saria Saccocio with Prisma Health. "Now, I’ll remind everyone the message we heard loud and clear from Governor McMaster three weeks ago, which was to use every vaccine in your supply."
Saccocio explained Prisma Health used second dose allotments to give people their first shots. Now they’re playing catch up to give second doses on time after clearing their shelves.
"We have no choice but to use our first dose allocation to ensure we stay on schedule. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence is that we will be delayed in being able to expand to those over the age of 65 and adding first dose appointments. As we explained, we only have so much vaccine supply to work with every week," Saccocio said.
DHEC said they’re working to fix this problem by changing how doses are allocated.
"We’re going to be going to more of a predictable system and more of a push system," said Senior Deputy for Public Health Nick Davidson. "The push system is not only probably more accurate as far as giving the second doses where they need to be when they need to be, but also more predictable for the providers in that they know exactly what they’re going to get because it’s however many they delivered 3 to 4 weeks ago."
That way providers won’t have to cancel or push appointments because they didn’t receive the number doses they expected.
Prisma Health added that from now on, they’ll only make first dose appointments available when they have the vaccine in hand.
Another challenge many are facing is scheduling appointments through the online system called VAMS.
DHEC said Tuesday that several updates are being made to the system to make the process easier. Soon people will be able to schedule both their first and second dose appointments at the same time through the system.