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Half of all South Carolinians to be eligible for vaccine next week

Currently teachers in South Carolina are in Phase 1b of the distribution plan.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina will enter Phase 1b of the vaccine next week, a massive expansion of those who will be able to get the COVID-19 shot.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, alongside DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer, and Schools Superintendent Molly Spearman, made the announcement Tuesday that the state would enter the Phase 1b on March 8.

RELATED: How to register for the COVID-19 vaccine in South Carolina if you're over 65+

Simmer said these means over half of all people in the state will now be eligible to get the vaccine. 

Among those included are the following:

  • Anyone aged 55 and up
  • People with increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
    • People aged 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

Based on current vaccine supply levels, DHEC anticipates Phase 1c will begin on approximately April 12, 2021. The phase will include:

  • People aged 45 and up
  • Essential workers
  • This group includes those who work in essential job categories as defined by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) who are not included in Phase 1b because they do not have frequent, close contact with others in the work environment (examples may include construction workers, delivery drivers, utility workers, etc. who do not have frequent, close and ongoing contact with others).

Phase 2 will begin on approximately May 3, 2021, and will include:

  • All South Carolinians aged 16 and up

Move back to school

The news comes a day after the state announced it will be receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

McMaster and Spearman said the expansion means schools need to move to five-day a week instruction immediately. 

"There are no more excuses or justifications for our schools to not be open to five-day a week, in-person instruction," McMaster said. "Our schools must be open."

Currently, only seniors, healthcare workers, and first responders are eligible for the vaccine as part of Phase 1a. Teachers and many other groups, including critical infrastructure employees, are in Phase 1b. 

RELATED: SC House lawmakers question need for teacher vaccine bill

An effort to get teachers moved up in the vaccination cycle easily passed through the Senate but has stalled in the House, and it's uncertain if it will actually get approved in that chamber. 

Spearman said last month she now supports moving all districts to five-day a week, in-person instruction. She pointed to recent studies and comments by the CDC director that state that schools do not have to require vaccinations for teachers to reopen safely. She said evidence shows schools are not the superspreader situations they were feared to be last summer.  

RELATED: SC education leader updates plan to reopen schools, vaccinate teachers

The survey found that about 70,000 of eligible school staff members wanted to get the vaccine, which is about 58% of the total eligible staff members (122,876).

DHEC VACCINE LOCATOR

  • Find DHEC’s online map at scdhec.gov/vaxlocator. This online map shows the locations currently accepting appointments (many of the same ones listed below) for COVID-19 vaccine and the map will provide the contact information for scheduling appointments at those locations. The map itself is not a way to schedule an appointment.
  • DHEC has a COVID-19 vaccine information line at 1-866-365-8110 The service is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week People who have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines or who need help finding vaccine providers and their contact information are asked to call the DHEC COVID-19 Vaccine Information Line.
  • You can also schedule an appointment directly through DHEC's website at CVAS.DHEC.SC.GOV. Appointment availability through this scheduling tool is limited to start, but is expected to grow in the coming days.
  • You will be asked to provide a driver’s license or other form of ID at your appointment that confirms your age in order to receive vaccine.
  • South Carolina residency is not a requirement to receive a vaccine.