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South Carolina teachers waiting for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility

As teachers in North Carolina get their shots, teachers in the Palmetto state are left waiting.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina officials say the pace of vaccination is gaining momentum. The state expecting more doses of the vaccine next week.

The state is currently in Phase 1.A. vaccinating health care workers, those in nursing homes, and people 65 years or older. But the vaccine rollout has been slow in the Palmetto state with a limited number of vaccines available. 

And as teachers in North Carolina get their shots, teachers in the Palmetto state are left waiting.

 "It's kind of demoralizing, teachers have been asked to do more than ever this school year," Patrick Kelly, with the Palmetto State Teachers Association said. 

COVID-19 has taken a toll on South Carolina educators and their students. For months, teachers have asked to be included in the early rounds of vaccinations. High school teacher, Patrick Kelly stilling waiting.

RELATED: SC health experts give update on vaccination effort, rollout

"When you're asked to do more than ever you do hope that you're given the adequate resources to do your job and right now there's no resource more important than vaccine access", Kelly said.

Getting the vaccine will offer any extra layer of protection, but for Kelly, it goes deeper than just safety.

"South Carolina schools are buckling right now under insignificant staffing because we have hundreds of staff out every day due to quarantine or getting the virus themselves, and who suffers is our students," Kelly said.

Blythewood High School feeling the pain.

"We had multiple classes in the auditorium at the same time because we didn't have teachers and we didn't have substitutes," Kelly said.

RELATED: US advisers endorse single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from J&J

With more vaccines becoming available, health officials say they could soon start transitioning to Phase 1.b. in the vaccine rollout, which includes teachers and other essential workers. But they don't want to skip over anyone who is eligible now in Phase 1.a. like those over 65. 

"We will continue to focus on those most at risk," the Senior Deputy for Public Health said. 

"Schools are oftentimes a safer setting than in the surrounding communities," Dr. Linda Bell said.

Despite that, many South Carolinians are eager to become eligible as states like North Carolina start to vaccinate their teachers.

"I know a lot of teachers who have driven from Columbia, Rock Hill into Charlotte to get vaccine access," Kelly said. 

RELATED: SC health leaders give update on vaccine rollout

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