Vaccine supply frustrates providers large and small
While 20,000 people 70 and older are on a waiting list to get an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine from Tidelands Health, a pharmacy is ready to help.
Glenn Cox, owner of Pawleys Island Pharmacy, purchased a freezer capable of storing the vaccine, got his staff vaccinated and trained to administer the vaccine, and is now approved to be a vaccination center.
The problem is, he can’t get his hands on the vaccine.
“We’re just waiting, waiting, waiting. We’re very frustrated,” Cox said. “We’re stuck right here in a community with a lot of people that are dying and no vaccine. I don’t know what the hold up is.”
Cox bought a $6,000 freezer to store the vaccine at -85 degrees. It’s been running for three weeks, but remains empty.
The state can’t activate more providers until they get more vaccine, said Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim public health director for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
“The biggest challenge right now is the limited amount of vaccine available, not just in South Carolina but across the country,” Traxler added.
“There’s a lot going on with poor planning from the federal government down to the state government,” Cox said. “They dumped it on the states and it seems DHEC dumped it on the hospitals.”
Starting next week the state will be receiving 10,000 more doses of the Moderna vaccine than it has been getting. The weekly shipment of doses to the state will now be 72,600, a 16 percent increase.
DHEC officials are still trying to figure out how those vaccines will be allocated, Traxler said.
As of Wednesday, 297,453 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been administered in the state.
The number of people unable to get the vaccine worries Gayle Resetar, chief operating officer of Tidelands Health.
“The thing that certainly keeps us up at night is that there are 20,000 people on the waiting list,” Resetar said. “They’re waiting and ready.”
Tidelands expected to reach 10,000 vaccinations today. Since the vaccine was made available to people 70 and older, it has hit its stride at 5,000 a week.
But maintaining that pace depends on the vaccine supply, Resetar said. While it takes the pressure off the hospital for other providers to get the vaccine, she hopes that won’t cut into the hospital’s supply of the Pfizer vaccine.
Tidelands set up clinics at Inlet Square Mall and the Howard Center in Georgetown, but limited the number of appointments for the first couple of days to see how smoothly the process would go.
“Now we’re booking,” Resetar said.
The clinics are only operating during the day right now since most of the recipients are 70 or older, but Tidelands may expand the hours as the state moves into Phase 1b and the people who get the vaccine are younger.
All Tidelands clinics are by appointment only.
Resetar knows that some people have been “appointment shopping.” Tidelands is reaching out to people to remind them to cancel their appointment or take their name off the waiting list if they get vaccinated before their appointment date arrives.
“It’s a pretty responsible group,” Resetar said.
Now that the state is receiving more vaccine, Resetar said Tidelands may open a third clinic.
“It’s really important for people to be a little bit patient,” she added. “We want to get our community vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Resetar also stressed the importance of people continuing to wear masks, wash their hands and maintain social distancing.
Cox’s regular customers have been calling his stores in Pawleys Island and Litchfield to make appointments to get the vaccine. “We’re not signing anybody up until we know for sure we’re going to get the vaccine,” he said.
Several of his customers have died from COVID-19.
“I feel for their families,” Cox said. “We pray that we’ll get it. That’s all we can do.”