COVID-19 vaccine
Jennifer Van Aernem, Director of Education at the Conway Medical Center (CMC) holds a vial of the Pfizer issued coronavirus vaccine. The CMC took delivery of 975 doses of the Pfizer issued COVID-19 vaccination on Monday and immediately began vaccinating hospital staff. By Monday afternoon 105 workers had registered to get the two-part vaccination. December 14, 2020.(Jason Lee/The Sun News via AP)

By MICHELLE LIU Associated Press/Report for America

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina health officials have slightly expanded the pool of people eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination as seniors and some health care workers continue to struggle to secure access to the lifesaving vaccine.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell announced Wednesday that parents caring for medically fragile or severely disabled children have been added to the state’s initial phase of its vaccine plan.

There are about 3,000 people estimated to be eligible under the new category, Bell said.

It’s a small addition to the large number of people trying to get vaccinated amid limited federal vaccine shipments. Demand skyrocketed last week after the Department of Health and Environmental Control said people aged 70 and older could start getting the vaccine. Officials estimate about 627,800 South Carolinians are 70 or older. Older adults are especially vulnerable to suffer life-threatening complications from COVID-19.

Thousands flooded hospitals and the health department’s hotline with calls, leading to long wait times as hospitals and other vaccination sites rapidly filled up all their appointment slots.

The state receives about 63,000 first doses weekly and DHEC doesn’t anticipate receiving more than that allotment anytime soon, interim Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler told reporters Wednesday, adding that the state requests the second doses needed to complete the vaccine schedule separately. Some hospitals have had to cancel appointments due to the limited supply.

The health department reported as of Tuesday that nearly 173,000 doses have been administered out of the 318,000 doses received by the state. As of Wednesday, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that every other state in the U.S. has received more doses per 100,000 residents than South Carolina has.

But state health officials said the South Carolina is receiving its fair share of vaccine doses, noting that the CDC data have a time lag.

Traxler added that South Carolina, unlike most other states, also chose early on to set aside all the doses it needed to vaccinate long-term care facility residents and staff, and that those allocated doses aren’t being counted in the federal tracker.

The rush to get vaccinated follows weeks of criticism by top state leaders that South Carolina was moving too slowly to get shots into the arms of health care workers, who were initially prioritized in mid-December.

Gov. Henry McMaster has blamed hospitals for the state’s slow rollout, telling reporters this week that the health systems needed to move faster, or else he or DHEC could invoke emergency powers to force them to do so.

But hospitals — facing staffing shortages as they manage a winter influx of COVID-19 patients, operate testing sites and vaccinate people — have said the limiting factor to the pace of vaccinations was simply that they were not receiving enough doses.

“We are now seeing every dose get rapidly taken up,” Traxler said Wednesday.

Still, concerned lawmakers in the South Carolina House have formed a committee to take a look at the state’s vaccine rollout. That committee is scheduled to meet Thursday morning for the first time.


Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at and


Liu is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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SC Adds Some Parents to Vaccine List Amid High Demand

AP, COVID-19, Health, News |