COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Starting March 8th, anyone in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan can schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Governor Henry McMaster, DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer and State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman made the announcement Tuesday morning at the State House.
Gov. McMaster said the state has given 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since mid-December. He said, “Our priority was and is to save lives.”
McMaster said providers, pharmacies and others across the state have worked quickly to get the health care workers and the most vulnerable vaccinated.
He said now is the right time to move on to Phase 1-B.
Dr. Simmer agreed. He said, “This will really take us forward and get us closer to herd immunity.” He said South Carolina could reach this when 70 to 80% of the population is vaccinated.
He said this could happen as soon as this summer and life could return to normal then. He still urges people to follow the health guidelines in place until then.
According to Simmer, there are about 2.7 million South Carolinians in Phase 1-B DHEC said this includes, anyone aged 55 and up, people aged 16-64 with increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease, and front-line workers with increased occupational risk.
Dr. Simmer asked South Carolinians to wait their turn if they are not in Phase 1-B.
Among those in Phase 1-B are teachers and school staff.
Governor McMaster said school districts and providers will be working together on teacher vaccination clinics. “These coordinated clinics will allow teachers to be vaccinated quicker than if the teachers had to make their own individual appointments,” he said.
Superintendent Spearman said while Tuesday’s announcement doesn’t exactly prioritize teachers she is grateful teachers will be able to get vaccinated next week.
She told teachers and school staff, “Take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to you. Do not wait. It is safe, and our students need you in the classroom delivering high-quality instruction every day.”
Spearman said getting vaccines would eliminate close-contact quarantines among staff members.
During the press conference, both Superintendent Spearman and the Governor once again urged school districts to offer five days of in-person instruction immediately.
In a statement, the Palmetto State Teachers Association said they were disappointed the Governor did not choose to prioritize teachers in 1B. They wrote, “While PSTA has advocated for vaccination of both the elderly and educators, we have consistently supported the Governor’s efforts to ensure vaccine access for those age 65 and above. However, today’s announcement is a different matter as the Governor could have prioritized educator vaccine access within Phase 1b without delaying vaccinations for anyone over the age of 65. Instead, today’s action means many teachers will not be able to secure a vaccine appointment for weeks or months.”
For information on who’s in Phase 1-B, when Phase 1-C and Phase 2 could begin click or tap here.