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DHEC officials prepare for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine

DHEC health officials say their immunizations and medical teams are fully involved in preparation for the vaccine to possibly arrive in the state next week.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The start to the distribution the COVID-19 vaccine in South Carolina is expected very soon, as early as next week, according to state officials.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) officials said their immunizations and medical teams are fully involved in preparation for the vaccine to possibly arrive in the state next week.

As far as distribution, it isn’t clear exactly how many vaccines the state will receive, but the state is clearer on who will receive the vaccine first.

Since there will be a limited supply of the vaccines at first, the goal is to roll the vaccine out in phases.

Prisma Health Midlands COVID-19 Incident commander Dr. Steve Shelton said that is the best plan.

"You have to come up with some phases or tiers, because we are not going to immediately have enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone throughout the population, and we are certainly appreciative of the healthcare providers on the frontlines being that 1A tier, specifically those who see the COVID-19 patients on a day-to-day basis," Shelton said.

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According to DHEC, Phase 1A will be focused on those who are healthcare workers who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure and are unable to work from home. 

Phase 1B will focus on other essential workers and people of high risk, including people 65 and older.

Phase 2 will focus on the remainder of Phase 1, critical populations and the general population.

DHEC officials said their goal is to have those who want the vaccine to be able to get it but they want to cover the most vulnerable populations first.

Shelton said they have also made it a priority within the hospital to make sure those who need the vaccine first have the opportunity.

“We too have set up our high priority individuals within the healthcare, to make sure those who are most likely to see the COVID-19 patients will be offered the vaccine first and then we will slowly start working from there to try and vaccinate anyone who within Prisma Health who is interested in being vaccinated," Shelton said. "I strongly encourage folks to do that. I will share a reminder, just because you got that vaccine doesn't mean you need to let your guard down and stop doing those public health measures that we're encouraging such as masking, social distancing and hand washing."

According to DHEC, South Carolina will receive 200,000-300,000 doses of vaccines by the end of the year, but they wont know the exact amount of doses until they are received.

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