COVID vaccine flows to hospitals, but not drugstores

Carolina Pines’ Frank Munn was first to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at the Hartsville hospital. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

editor@newsandpress.net

Little by little, the COVID-19 vaccine is flowing to Darlington County. On Dec. 17, Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center in Hartsville received its “initial allotment” of COVID-19 vaccines, said hospital spokeswoman Miranda Peavy. First in line for vaccination at the hospital was a frontline worker, Frank Munn, director of Emergency and Surgical Service Lines. “Carolina Pines encourages everyone in the community to be a hero and get vaccinated once the vaccine is more widely available, hopefully in the coming months,” the hospital says. The only question is, how many months before you can walk into your local CVS Pharmacy or Walgreens and say, “I’d like a COVID shot”? CVS Health says it has already started administering COVID-19 vaccines at more than 40,000 long-term care facilities across the country; here in South Carolina, the company says, the effort began Dec. 28 in 682 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. CVS Health says it plans to “eventually” provide vaccines to the general public in its 10,000 CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide, but again, there’s the question: How long is “eventually”? If you check with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the answer is a cautiously worded: “Vaccine is expected to be available to everyone in the coming months.” U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar has said that, by the second quarter of 2021 – maybe April, May, June — there should be enough doses on hand in the United States so that everyone who wants a vaccination shot can get one. Some other officials in the federal government have estimated that we might reach the “everyone can get one” point by spring. Hard numbers are tough to find in this debate, but one estimate of 20 weeks from now has been discussed. Vaccine supplies are coming into South Carolina, but policies and planning regulate who gets them first. For example, McLeod Health in Florence vaccinated its first physicians Dec. 15. (First in line were Dr. Jeremy Robertson, Chief Medical Officer for McLeod Regional Medical Center and an emergency medicine physician; Dr. Dale Lusk, Corporate Chief Medical Officer for McLeod Health; and Dr. Peter Hyman, an emergency medicine physician.) McLeod is using a “three-phase distribution plan,” administered by McLeod Occupational Health, to perform the vaccinations with the supplies the hospital has at this time. Phase One includes employees in direct care of COVID-19 patients and all McLeod Health active and affiliate medical staff physicians. Phase Two will include employees in inpatient and outpatient departments with “direct patient care” responsibilities. Phase Three will include employees in “non-direct patient care” departments. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control says that South Carolina should get 200,000 to 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, from both companies making vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, by the end of the year. All of those are expected to be targeted to high-risk medical staffers, patients and staff in nursing homes, and perhaps elderly people at risk because of pre-existing conditions. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, put it like this on CNN recently: “Once you get the overwhelming majority of the people vaccinated, the level of the virus is going to go down and down and down and then it’s going to turn out to be no problem.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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