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Some SC rural counties wait for the coronavirus vaccine to become available

Many rural counties in the Midlands who are still waiting on the vaccine say they plan to offer it to EMS workers once they become available in the county.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Some rural counties in South Carolina are still waiting to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

The talk of the week in South Carolina has been the COVID-19 vaccine arriving. Hospitals like Prisma Health and Lexington Medical Center received doses a couple of days ago.

On Thursday, McLeod Health in Clarendon County started vaccinating some of their physicians.

They're following a three phase approach that first starts with employees who are in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and also McLeod Health active and affiliate medical staff physicians.

Phase Two will be for employees in Inpatient and Outpatient departments with direct patient care responsibilities.

Finally, Phase Three will be for other employees who serve in non-direct patient care departments. 

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While the vaccine is in some of the more populated parts of the state, what about other rural counties of the Midlands?

Josh Morton, the Emergency Management Director for Saluda County, says as of Thursday, the county has had a total of 893 cases of the coronavirus. 70 of those cases have occurred in the last fourteen days.

As of Thursday, Saluda County continues to wait to receive the vaccine.

"As of right now, we have not been made aware of any vaccine that's come into the county," said Morton. "Really our role at this point is just been to identify a provider for county first responders."

Morton believes it's important for rural communities to receive the vaccine.

"Being a rural county, a lot of our people actually travel outside the county for work. They're traveling to Newberry or Lexington or Greenwood and places like that every day and while we may not have a super high rate of occurrence at this time, it can travel back to this county from those places."

While Saluda, Calhoun, Lee and Fairfield counties haven't received the vaccine, their emergency management departments say their plan is to offer vaccinations to EMS workers in the county since they provide medical attention.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control tells News 19 officials hope to establish vaccine clinics in rural areas or other medical centers after Phases 1a and 1b. There's not a timetable in place at the moment and it could still change.

As people continue to wait, Morton wants people to continue to work to keep everyone safe.

"Even with this vaccine coming and as people are being vaccinated, we still need to be vigilant. We still need to be wearing masks and washing hands and social distancing," said Morton. "It's not the time to get slack about that stuff."

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