SC health officials hope vaccine demographic data will help ensure fair rollout

Tracking The Vaccine

HARTSVILLE, S.C. (WBTW) — South Carolina health officials unveiled a new online tool this week that shines light on whose arms COVID shots are ending up in.

DHEC’s new vaccine dashboard launched and provides details like age, race, ethnicity, county and sex among vaccine recipients.

Looking through the data, you can learn more information about the demographics of the state’s recipients. For instance, as of Tuesday, the average recipient age was 63.6.

The demographic that has gotten the most doses so far according to the dashboard is white women 65 and older. In the 65 + age bracket, women have received nearly 50,000 more doses than men.

Among adults 65 and older, around 220,000 doses went to people who identified as white, while around 42,000 went to people who identified as Black as of Tuesday.

The dashboard also shows that counties with larger urban centers tend to have given out more vaccines.

“Initially we started by focusing on healthcare providers,” DHEC director Dr. Edward Simmer said to lawmakers and health officials Tuesday. “Those folks tend to be in urban areas… Right now our numbers are skewed towards vaccinating people in urban areas.”

The new online tool comes as officials discuss how best to get vaccines out efficiently and fairly.

“We are now very focused on how do we make sure we’re getting into every area—rural, urban,” Dr. Simmer said. “Something I’ve told the team to ramp up the effort on and work on is how do we find the folks who need the vaccine and how we get it to them.”

Meanwhile, the dashboard shows that thousands of doses have gone to recipients from other states.

“The vast majority of folks that are getting vaccine live in South Carolina,” Dr. Simmer said. “But we don’t demand proof of that. We think the goal here ultimately is to vaccinate as many people as we can.”

Health officials say tracking demographics will help find which communities are lagging in vaccine access, especially as the rollout moves forward.

Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center in Hartsville has been holding clinics on weekdays and has had three drive-through clinics on Saturdays. The hospital has gotten thousands of doses out.

“What we’ve been finding is that’s not reaching enough of our minority population,” VP of Physician Services at Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center Shauna Cameron said. “So when you look at who’s coming through the drive through… we realize we’re not reaching everyone.”

The hospital is working to reach those in rural areas and minority groups.

“What we started doing is in addition to these Saturday clinics, I was ordering extra vaccine to make sure we could go out to the community and hit some of the more underserved areas,” Cameron said. “We went to Jerusalem Baptist Church and worked with the pastor there and we went to that church location and did about 120 the first time, and went back a second time and did another 150, 160.”

Cameron said they’re working with many places and groups to expand vaccine access.

State lawmakers agree that minority groups need support.

Representative Robert Williams of Darlington says it’s good that health officials are compiling the data on demographics.

“If we’re not following the data we’re missing the point,” he said. “DHEC has got to do a better job in rolling this out to the areas that need it the most.”

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