DHEC says COVID-19 vaccine will be provided at no cost, months away for general public


COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – A vaccine for COVID-19 is months away for the general population in South Carolina but will be provided at no cost, state officials announced on Wednesday.

Because of initially limited supplies, the vaccine will be released in phases. The first phase will target workers in healthcare facilities and others with key roles to preserve “functioning roles in society,” said Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist.

DHEC is working to figure out storage, distribution, and administration of the vaccine, Dr. Bell said. One initial COVID-19 vaccine will need to be put at ultra-cold storage in minus 70 degrees Celsius temperatures, she added. Many facilities in the state do not have that ultra-cold storage. 

The state is encouraging health care providers to enroll now to become a vaccine distributer.

DHEC will not require anyone to receive a vaccine, according to Dr. Jane Kelly, assistant state epidemiologist. But individual companies and organizations may have their own requirements.

Pfizer said on Wednesday that tests from its ongoing vaccine study suggest the shots are 95% effective and that the vaccine protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19. Earlier this week Moderna, Inc. announced that its experimental vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective after an interim analysis of its late-stage study.

U.S. officials have said they hope to have about 20 million vaccine doses each from Moderna and Pfizer available for distribution in late December. The first shots will be offered to vulnerable groups like medical and nursing home workers, and people with serious health conditions.

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