How SC health officials are preparing if a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate is put in place

State News

FILE – In this Wednesday, March 3, 2021 file photo, a pharmacist holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. Janssen Pharmaceuticals is a division of Johnson & Johnson. On Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration said it is wrestling with whether and when recipients of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine need another dose — at six months or as early as two months. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Last month, President Joe Biden announced he would order all businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for their employees or require weekly testing.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said they are making preparations for when and if the federal mandate is implemented.

Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler said they have been in communication with their partners about this. They do not have any plans finalized since they have not seen the language of the order.

She said DHEC could make their mobile vaccination units available and set up vaccination clinics if needed to help businesses.

Dr. Traxler said, “I anticipate if there a large numbers of people needing to get vaccine we will do everything we can to get them the vaccine if they want it.”

During a DHEC board meeting last week, Director Dr. Edward Simmer said they, along with the state Department of Commerce, estimate around 600,000 unvaccinated workers in South Carolina would fall under the mandate.

He said they’re unsure of the percentage of those unvaccinated workers that would opt for the weekly testing. Dr. Simmer told board members, “If they want the weekly testing that is going to be a big lift. We have to take a look at how that testing is paid for and also who provides that testing. That is something we are actively working on to make sure no businesses are left in the lurch and we’ll see if that comes to pass.”

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and other Republican Attorneys General have vowed legal action against the Biden administration if the mandate is put in place. Governor Henry McMaster has also spoke out against the federal mandate.

This week, the Governor of Texas issued an order that blocks any entity, the state or business from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas for their employees or consumers. Governor McMaster was asked about that order by reporters this week.

He said, “Governor Abbott is a very experienced leader in Texas but in our state we didn’t tell businesses what to do and we’re not going to tell them what not to do.”

The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce said two-thirds of the businesses they surveyed in South Carolina were not in favor of the proposed federal vaccine and weekly testing mandate.

According to DHEC, a little more than 53% of eligible South Carolinians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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