Just over a month after announcing it was developing plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control released its first version of the plan Friday.
The 42-page document, prepared in consultation with several government agencies and the National Guard and the SC Hospital Association, states that healthcare professionals who may be exposed to the new coronavirus are given first priority upon receipt of any vaccine that has been approved.
DHEC state epidemiologist Linda Bell, who spoke to reporters at a conference call on Friday, said any vaccine that is approved is almost certain to be in limited supply initially and make decisions about who gets priority.
“Not everyone who wants a vaccine in the first place can get one. “Once the vaccine is available, these limited supplies will be reserved for those most at risk of either getting COVID-1
In DHEC’s plan, “Phase 1”, when supplies are limited, is divided into two parts – in Phase 1-A, “paid and unpaid people serving in the health service who could potentially or indirectly expose patients or infectious materials and are not in able to work from home ”will receive the vaccine. In Phase 1-B, access to the vaccine will be extended to“ people who play a vital role in maintaining essential functions of society that run and who cannot gain social distance in the workplace. .. and people at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease, including people 65 years or older. ”
Who exactly will count as key infrastructure workers will be defined by federal health officials, Bell said.
One group that may not be included in the first wave of vaccinations are children, as assistant state epidemiologist Jane Kelly noted that almost all vaccines in the late stages of the study have been tested on adults, and officials will need to see safety. and efficacy data for children first.
Phase 2 of DHEC’s plan will enter into force when there are sufficient doses to meet demand, make the vaccine available to all and push to administer it through public health events as well as doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Phase 3 would have open access to the vaccine and a shift to routine strategy with public health events as needed.
But when Phase 1 begins, or even how long each phase lasts, remains unknown, Bell admitted Friday.
“It all depends on the progress of the availability of various vaccine products and the amount of stock that will be made available to the state. The federal government will make decisions about the allocation of the available vaccine to each state, and how long we remain in a phase will depend on vaccine production, ”Bell said. “There are estimates, and they are really represented as what is supposed to occur in different phases. However, at this time, we do not have timelines for the duration of each of these phases. ”
DHEC’s plan notes that the FDA could grant emergency approval of a vaccine as soon as November.