The vaccine distribution plan has been organized to target the most vulnerable in our communities, according to DHEC officials. When more vaccine is produced and more vaccines become available, the planned distribution may change over time.
Phase 1 distribution relies on a limited amount of vaccine. This is where South Carolina currently is. In Phase 1, people who are at high risk or workers deemed essential by the state who are at higher risk of exposure to the new coronavirus are prioritized.
There are subphases in Phase 1: Phase 1A — where South Carolina is currently — has the vaccine dedicated to health care workers, those 65 years old or older and COVID-19 vaccine mission-critical government employees.
“We wanted our initial allocation of vaccine to go where it would have the biggest bang for the buck,” says DHEC’s Dr. Jane Kelly. “In terms of preventing deaths, and by our statistics in South Carolina, and this is true nationally as well, the biggest factor in increased severe disease and death is age.”
DHEC announced on March 2 that Phase 1B would begin on March 8. It will include those aged 55 and older as well as people with increased risk for severe COVID-19. Frontline essential workers in the fields of law enforcement, manufacturing workers, grocery store clerks and others can also sign up to receive the vaccine.
Around April 12, Phase 1C should begin, which includes people with underlying health problems and other industry workers.
The next phase, Phase 2, will occur when the vaccine is widely available. The push for this phase is toward the general population. DHEC estimates this phase would begin in early May.
Phase 3 will target those in vulnerable populations that have yet to receive the vaccine and will target communities with low vaccination rates.
So far, DHEC reports about 441,285 first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses have been delivered and 170,813 first doses of the Moderna vaccine have been given as of March 2.
“We would love to vaccinate everybody who wants to be vaccinated tomorrow. We simply don’t have the doses of vaccine,” says Kelly. “Every week we get additional doses of vaccine, but they’re small amounts compared to the 5 million people who live in South Carolina, so we have to do this in a small-step fashion.”