COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — As the demand for the COVID-19 vaccine continues to outweigh the supply in South Carolina, state lawmakers want to make changes to the way the vaccines are allocated.
Earlier this week, the House passed a vaccine relief bill. The joint resolution sets aside more than $200 million to help speed up the vaccine rollout.
It also includes a proposal to modify how the state is allocating vaccines to certain areas of the state.
Representative Murrell Smith (R-District 67) said, “We can’t produce the vaccines or get them here any faster but when they get here we can make sure they get in the arms in the people of South Carolina instead of dealing with roadblocks.”
Right now, DHEC is allocating vaccines to counties based solely on population. State lawmakers want them to send the vaccine based on the state’s four regions (Upstate, Midlands, Pee Dee and Low Country).
They also want them to consider a list of factors as well when deciding how much of the vaccine to send.
Rep. Smith said, “The current plan doesn’t take into account people in poverty in rural and underserved areas where people can’t drive from one county to the other. It doesn’t take into account what providers are actually in those counties.”
The factors include, poverty level, infection rates, age and high-risk population.
Lawmakers said they want to make sure the rural areas in South Carolina aren’t left behind and get a fair share of the vaccine.
Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-District 111) said, “When we talk about economic progress, education, broadband, anything else, they’re suffering. So we should talk about the rural areas as a priority.”
The bill also creates regional advisory committees that would meet with DHEC once a week to give them recommendations on where to send the vaccine.
The bill is now on it’s way to the state Senate for debate.