S.C. opening COVID-19 vaccinations to 55 and older

S.C. Governor Henry McMaster. FILE PHOTO

Gov. Henry McMaster and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) say South Carolina has advanced to Phase 1b of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan beginning March 8. Among other things, this means that people 55 and older can now schedule COVID shots. Until now, you had to be 65 or older. “Throughout South Carolina’s vaccination efforts, our priority has been – and continues to be – saving lives,” said McMaster. “In the month of February, South Carolina made tremendous progress on expanding access to vaccinations as the supply of vaccine increased. “Our hospitals, pharmacies and healthcare providers became more nimble and efficient at getting shots in arms. Because of these successes, we’re now in a position to make the majority of South Carolinians eligible to receive the vaccine.” “South Carolina remains focused on protecting the lives and health of South Carolinians from COVID-19,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC director. “With the significant increase in vaccine supply and progress in vaccinating people in group 1a, front-line health care workers and those aged 65 and over, we are now ready to move to our next phase. Our state’s vaccine plan prioritizes those with greatest risk, while ensuring equal access to the vaccine for every South Carolinian aged 16 and over.” South Carolina’s phased approach to its COVID-19 vaccine rollout recognizes the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 increases with age, and people with certain medical conditions and occupations are at higher risk of exposure to the virus. Because of this, South Carolina will continue to move phase by phase, based on risk level, with the goal of vaccinating every South Carolinian who wants to receive a vaccine by this summer. Appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine can be made by people in the following groups: — Anyone 55 and up — People with increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease — People 16-64 with one or more of the following high-risk medical conditions: Cancer (current, not a history of cancer), chronic kidney disease (any stage), chronic lung disease, diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2), Down syndrome, heart disease (congestive heart disease, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension), HIV/AIDS, solid organ transplant, obesity (BMI >30), pregnancy, sickle cell disease. — People who have a developmental or other severe high-risk disability that makes developing severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection more likely — Frontline workers with increased occupational risk Frontline workers with increased occupational risk are people who: Must be in-person at their place of work, and Perform a job that puts them at increased risk of exposure due to their frequent, close (less than 6 feet) and ongoing (more than 15 minutes) contact with others in the work environment Examples of frontline workers include, but are not limited to, school staff and daycare workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, law enforcement officers, etc. — Individuals at increased risk in settings where people are living and working in close contact — Residents and workers in group home settings for the mentally or physically disabled or those with behavioral or substance abuse conditions — Workers and residents in homeless shelters — Workers and residents in community training homes — State and local correctional facility staff with direct inmate contact — Correctional and immigration detention facility inmates — Migrant farmworkers living in shared housing or reliant on shared transportation — All workers in healthcare and community health settings who have routine, direct patient contact and were not vaccinated in Phase 1a Based on current vaccine supply levels, DHEC anticipates Phase 1c will begin on approximately April 12. The phase will include people aged 45 and up; essential workers. Phase 2 will begin on approximately May 3 and will include all South Carolinians aged 16 and up. How to make an appointment? Online appointments can be made by using scdhec.gov/vaxlocator or you can call DHEC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Information Line at 1-866-365-8110 for help. How will people demonstrate eligibility? When seeking vaccine services, people included in Phase 1b or 1c may show eligibility by showing an ID that includes their date of birth, verifying that they meet the criteria for a frontline or essential worker, or by verifying that they have an eligible high-risk medical condition. To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines, visit scdhec.gov/vaxfacts.

Author: Rachel Howell

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