GREENVILLE On the first day, ages 70 and up become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Upstate leading healthcare provider said Wednesday it has the capacity to administer vaccines but not enough supply, leading to limited availability.
At a news conference Wednesday, Prisma Health officials overseeing the inoculations urged the public to be patient with an overloaded system.
Please know that we are working very hard for all the details in an environment that is changing from minute to minute, said Prisma’s Chief Ombudsman’s Chief Medical Officer. Saria Saccocio, who along with CEO Mark O’Halla lead the system vaccine task force.
Early in the morning, State Department of Health and Environmental Control interactive map showing where vaccine appointments are available showed nothing but red dots on Upstate, which indicated no availability.
By the afternoon, the dots representing Prisma hospitals had turned green.
In South Carolina, the vaccine is now available as part of “Phase 1a” for health care providers and as of this week anyone in the public age 70 or older.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday authorized availability for anyone 65 years of age or older. Prisma will receive appointment requests from 65-year-olds but will have to wait for instructions from Gov. Henry McMaster if anyone younger than 70 who is not hospitalized can get the vaccine, Saccocio said.
Prisma is working to expand vaccination efforts beyond hospitals and later this month will begin mobilizing what will be three medical vans provided by Greenville County through its federal CARES funding, O’Halla said.
The capacity to administer is in place, he said.
But for now, with 64,000 doses being delivered to the state each week, supply is limited, he said. For perspective, he said, the state will need the 10 million doses it needs in two shots to be effective in covering the state’s 5 million population.
We need everyone to be patient, “O’Halla said. The limiting factor for now is the number of doses we take.
On Tuesday, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control told lawmakers at a Capitol hearing that newcomers should wait “green will probably turn red very soon”. When McMaster authorized the new adaptation, the DHEC website crashed and the phone line was overloaded.
Logjam, said Saccocio, has a silver lining: The request shows that the insistence of health experts on broad participation seems to be taken into account and will probably overcome reluctance reports in the community.
That’s exactly what we need in the state of South Carolina the interest and energy to be vaccinated against this deadly virus, she said.
Flooding comes from the elderly who are statistically more likely to die from complications associated with COVID-19. It is unclear what the level of interest will be when the vaccine is open to the general public.
The vaccine must be administered to about 70 percent of the population to the point that the virus does not spread to the community, or perhaps higher, a Post and Courier analysis found. Currently, the analysis found, only about 4.6 percent of the state population is known to be likely to have natural immunity, with an unknown number more than those who have not reported infections.
It will probably not be until the summer that 75 percent of the state population will be vaccinated, O’Halla said.
Prisma has provided 22,000 vaccines to those healthcare workers first in line, at 2,000 a day, he said.
Next in line are teachers, first responders, bus drivers, and factory workers. Behind this are people with basic health conditions and more essential workers as welltrucks, home builders and media.
The public can request online meetings at DHEC Home orprizmahealth.org/vaccine or by phone at 833-2PRISMA. The system requires patients not to call their family doctors or pharmacies for guidance because they do not have access to the appointment system.
Immediately to vaccinate the public comes as COVID cases day after day reach record levels in each category.
The rate of those who are positive in South Carolina is about 30 percent since the holidays. The positivity rate in Upstate, which ranks first in the U.S. in terms of blast severity among mid-regions, is 40 percent, O’Halla said.
World Health Organization guidelines suggest that spread is not considered under control until positivity rates are at least 5 percent over a two-week period.
Now, more than 2,400 patients with COVID are hospitalized in the Prisma system, representing 30 percent of total patients, O’Halla said.
By comparison, the summer surge that prompted officials to desperately seek public help in following prevention guidelines saw about 320 patients admitted per day, he said. Today, the number is an “exponential increase” of 575 per day.
Hospitals face available beds being reduced with the currently added problem of 180 unavailable clinical staff due to COVID infection, he said.
On Monday, he said, Prisma will use its Laurens hospital as a “discount” unit, which will house patients who no longer suffer from acute symptoms of COVID but still require hospitalization.
Since March, more than 326,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in South Carolina, causing at least 5,315 deaths.
Coronavirus is likely to rank as the third leading cause of death in South Carolina in 2020, after cancer and heart disease.