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Health officials concerned over lack of vaccine demand in SC

DHEC says it's ordering fewer coronavirus vaccine doses from the federal government due to lack of public interest.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Health officials say demand is down for the COVID-19 vaccine in South Carolina. 

Not long ago, appointments were filled and vaccine supply wasn’t meeting demand. Now, DHEC is urging people to get the shot as vials are sitting on shelves.

According to the state health agency, 36% of South Carolinians are fully vaccinated. That’s far from the numbers they’re hoping to see in terms of vaccinations, but due to lack of demand, they’re ordering fewer doses from the federal government.

"Through last week we were still ordering what was needed for the Pfizer and Moderna based on what was being requested from us by our partners, as well as what we’d need for our sites and events," said DHEC's Director of Public Health, Dr. Brannon Traxler, during a media call Wednesday.

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DHEC reported to News19 that South Carolina ordered over 20,000 Pfizer doses for the state's weekly allocation on April 19. However, this past week they only ordered about 7,000 Pfizer doses.

Prisma Health is also responding to the lack of demand. The hospital system recently announced due to less interest from the public, they’ve closed a mass vaccination site in the Upstate and reduced operating hours at the rest of their sites.

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For example, the clinic at Colonial Life Arena is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Their new hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.

Prisma Health told News19 the Columbia vaccine site administers about 125 shots a day. Compare that number to last month, when they say they were administering an average of 500 shots a day at Gamecock Park.

Now, Prisma Health is focusing its efforts on offering vaccines at its primary care offices.

Rick Scott, chair of Prisma Health's vaccine task force, said in a statement last week that he's proud of their vaccination efforts. “We continue our commitment to getting shots in arms through our vaccination sites, mobile units and now our primary care offices.”

FEMA’s temporary mass vaccination clinic at Columbia Place Mall is set to close in two weeks. Until then, it’s offering the single dose Johnson and Johnson shot to people 18 and older.

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"Going to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, certainly we hope that will increase our completed vaccination rates with it being a one and done vaccine," said Dr. Traxler. She hopes making the one-dose shot easily available will peak the public's interest in getting vaccinated.

South Carolinians looking for the vaccine can search options on DHEC’s vaccine locator. Pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, Publix and Walmart offer appointments. 

Plus, Nephron Pharmaceuticals in West Columbia is still operating its drive-thru clinic. Several county health departments, including Richland County, are also offering the shot. All of these options can be found on the vaccine locator.

Prisma Health says despite lack of demand, they’re confident offering the shots at primary care offices will help battle vaccine hesitancy.

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