COVID-19 vaccine arrives in SC; schools roll back in-person learning

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Some frontline health care workers in South Carolina could be vaccinated for COVID-19 as early as Monday as the state has received its first shipments of the vaccine.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control said it received its first allocation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Monday.

The agency anticipates nearly 43,000 doses to arrive by Wednesday, with an expected 200,000 to 300,000 doses by the end of the year. Critical health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities will be first in line to receive the vaccine.

“Our frontline healthcare workers have sacrificed so much for our people this year. Now, we’ve received the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine and medical professionals across the state will begin receiving doses soon,” Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted Monday. “We are witnessing American ingenuity at its finest!”

Health officials asked the public to be patient as initial doses of the vaccine are limited and will go to vulnerable populations first. Among others included in the first half of the initial phase for vaccine distribution are certain first responders, medical staff in prisons and dialysis centers, coroners and hospice workers. Teachers and other school staff are included in the second half of the state’s vaccine plan.

The general public may not get the vaccine until the spring or summer.

Also Monday, one of the state’s larger school districts, Richland One in Columbia, said it was switching back to all-virtual classes for at least the first two weeks of January, citing the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community. It is among a growing number of districts moving students back out of the classroom this month, even as the governor has insisted schools maintain in-person learning options five days a week.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in South Carolina has risen over the past two weeks from about 1,405 new cases per day on Nov. 29 to 2,872 new cases per day on Dec. 13, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

The state has seen at least 234,392 cases and 4,387 deaths due to the virus since the start of the outbreak, state health official have said.