CALHOUN COUNTY, S.C. — One of the state’s smallest counties, Calhoun County, with a population of about 15,000, is doing everything it can to help residents get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I know with us in EMS we’re seeing the sick people from this virus and we’re seeing the people dying from this virus”, said Calhoun county EMS Director, Crystal Youmans.”
So, for Youmans, the waiting really is the hardest part. No knowing when they will be getting the vaccine.
“The email communication with DHEC has been a point of frustration. And I do fully understand they’re trying to serve the entire state and we’re just one county and one approved, not activated provider so I get there’s a lot going on, but it’s kind of frustrating not knowing a timeline.”
You may remember, DHEC doesn’t approve counties to give vaccines – it approves providers.
According to its website – any facility – organization or healthcare provider licensed to possess or administer vaccine or provide vaccination services is eligible to enroll. While the Calhoun County EMS Agency was approved and trained to give it – the vaccine supply is the biggest issue.
Crystal explains, “we kept being told well you’re going to be activated as soon as supplies are sufficient enough to be able to administer the vaccines.”
Currently, according to DHEC’s vaccine dashboard, only 955 shots were administered in Calhoun County.
While the EMS Agency waits for vaccines Crystal explains what the department sees around the community.
“You know we’re not getting phone calls because someone lost their sense of taste. We’re getting people who have now developed pneumonia are septic and they’ve got this systemic infection going on and now it’s causing cardiac problems or major breathing problems so we’re seeing the people dying from this virus, we’re seeing people going on ventilators and it’s just really troublesome to know that now we have a possible means to helping prevent it and from it getting to other people - and not a lot of access to that vaccine,” Yeomans shared.
And, while the EMS department waits for vaccines to give, there are a couple providers in the county offering the shots.
“The St. Matthews Family Health Center has done it. The Regional Medical Center has been phenomenal at trying to get us the vaccines. But then they started having some issues with getting the vaccines delivered to them,” noted Yeomans.
County officials, the Council on Aging and the local library all work to inform the community about the importance of getting the shot.
Yeomans said, “it’s been a slow transition. People are nervous about it being new, about not knowing side effects, not wanting to feel bad.”
Another big part of the education process – understanding the seriousness of COVID-19.
For Yeomans, all the protective measures are necessary to help keep her community safe, “we really want to serve that’s what I think everybody in EMS signed up to serve their citizens of the community. It’s a due diligence to protect your fellow citizens, fellow community and fellow neighbors. It’s going to take the entire community stepping up to make it successful with the least amount of deaths from this pandemic.”