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Loss of hospital posed challenges in Fairfield Co. vaccine distribution

Emergency Management officials say they're working on setting up a drive-thru vaccine clinic in the county to help more residents get their shot.

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, S.C. — A slow start to vaccine distribution in Fairfield County, South Carolina is gaining momentum.

Planning is underway to bring a drive-thru vaccine clinic to Winnsboro.

"We're a fairly small county, so in the beginning honestly I felt that we were a little behind," said Brad Douglas, Director of Fairfield County Emergency Management.

RELATED: Rural SC communities struggling to receive COVID-19 vaccine because of limited access

When the COVID-19 vaccines were ready, distribution was coordinated with local hospitals in South Carolina.

For communities without a hospital, they were forced to wait.

"In Fairfield County, the hospital closed a couple of years ago, so that put is in a lurch where we had to get at the back of the line," said Mayor of Winnsboro, Dr. Roger Gaddy.

Since Fairfield Memorial Hospital closed, the county partnered with Providence Hospital in Columbia to open a stand-alone emergency room.

RELATED: Fairfield County community gathers for opening of Providence Health Emergency Room

However, due to the lack of hospital infrastructure, getting doses of the vaccine in Fairfield County proved to be a challenge.

Gaddy, a doctor at Fairfield Medical Associates, says he waited months for his workplace to receive vaccines.

"Our practice was certified in November to be an approved vaccine site, but it took until the 1st of February to get any vaccines," he said. "We've assisted DHEC in giving immunizations in the old hospital parking lot and actually out in our parking lot."

Within the next couple of weeks, Gaddy expects the practice to begin scheduling vaccine appointments.

Right now, three family practices are accepting appointments in Fairfield County.

As of Sunday evening, DHEC's map shows two more locations accepting vaccine appointments: the Fairfield County Health Department and the CVS in Winnsboro.

Douglas says plans are underway at Fairfield County Emergency Management to get more residents the vaccine.

"We're in the process, the initial phases, of planning for a drive-thru vaccine site in Winnsboro, which is centrally located in Fairfield County," said Douglas. "We're hoping to create a site that will make it more available to the entire population of Fairfield County that is eligible at this time. Then when we move to Phase 1-B and 1-C, we'll have the mechanism in place to get them vaccinated."

The Fairfield County Transit Department is also providing residents free rides to vaccine appointments.

"I think we're rapidly catching up with where we need to be," said Gaddy. "Hopefully we'll be able to vaccinate more people and eradicate this virus so we can go back to living our normal lives that we're accustomed to."