‘As quickly as possible’: DHEC looks to increase COVID-19 vaccine efficiency in hospitals, prevent wasted doses

Tracking The Vaccine

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) – The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says it wants to make sure no doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are wasted, as coronavirus cases continue spreading at a high rate.

DHEC says there’s more demand for COVID-19 vaccines than doses available and with limited supply from the federal government, DHEC wants to make sure hospitals give as many shots as possible.

“We’re now seeing every dose get rapidly taken up,” said DHEC’s interim public health director Dr. Brannon Traxler.

When Gov. Henry McMaster visited Conway Medical Center’s vaccine facility Tuesday, he had one simple message.

“We’ve got vaccines here in this state that are not being put in people’s arms and we need to get that done,” said Gov. McMaster.

That’s what DHEC is looking to do: streamline the vaccination process in hospitals.

“We want every vial that a facility receives being actively used to fulfill appointments and requests,” Dr. Traxler said.

Dr. Traxler says hospitals should only order enough vaccine doses to give in the following week and make sure they use any many doses as they can get in each vial.

“Over-ordering can lead to vials sitting on shelves and this is the last thing that we want,” she said. “We want every vial, every dose in every vial, that comes into our state being administered as quickly as possible.”

Despite the CDC’s website saying South Carolina is last in doses received per capita, DHEC says the state is receiving a “fair and appropriate allocation” after consulting with the CDC and Operation Warp Speed.

Dr. Traxler says those figures don’t properly account for what’s gone to long-term care facilities. The CDC’s tracker only counts doses that have been shipped to states and pharmacies through a federal pharmacy partnership for long-term care facilities.

That does not include DHEC immediately allocating the entire amount of doses to its own long-term care program needed to ensure every resident and staff member got both vaccine shots, a step Dr. Traxler says many other states haven’t taken.

“That doses distributed [number] is just not fully representing all the doses that South Carolina has available to utilize,” said Dr. Traxler.

DHEC also says there are no known cases of any COVID-19 variants, but its public health laboratory has been performing genetic sequencing on samples since June. Dr. Traxler says sequencing is done on 24 samples a week.

DHEC is also reviewing positive tests from since December that were missing a gene not found in variants and is sharing information with the CDC.

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