Though public health officials at first wanted to avoid people waiting in long lines in the hopes they might be able to get a vaccine, more providers in South Carolina seem to be moving to the option of offering the COVID-19 shots to people without the need to make an appointment.
Across the state, some providers are offering no-appointment-necessary vaccinations in an effort to get shots in arms as quickly as possible. To date, 1.4 million South Carolina residents — about a third of the state's adult population — have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim director of public health with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, said no-appointment vaccine clinics are one option state leaders are now looking at in order to encourage people to get their shots.
Traxler said as supply has increased, it makes more sense to offer vaccine clinics to people who may not be able to schedule an appointment. Still, no-registration-needed events raise concerns of possible waste, she said, and long lines may go against recommendations to physically distance.
"It's going to be a balancing act," Traxler said.
West Columbia-based Lexington Medical Center is taking walk-ins for vaccines from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. at two of its locations — its auditorium at 2728 Sunset Blvd. and at the Brookland Baptist Church at 1066 Sunset Blvd. The health system said in the April 5 announcement "hundreds of spots are available this week" and anyone with questions can call 803-739-3363.
The Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg is offering walk-up vaccines, both first and second Pfizer doses, at the Orangeburg County Fairground at 350 Magnolia St. from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 9. The hospital has a vaccine hotline people can call at 1-833-522-8227.
Hilton Head Regional Healthcare, a Beaufort County-based hospital system, also announced April 6 it would begin taking walk-in COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Those 16 and older who are interested can go to the Buckwalter Recreation Center at 905 Buckwalter Parkway in Bluffton on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays from 2-5 p.m. for a shot. The health care group cautioned its ability to offer the walk-ins are dependent on the supply of vaccine.
Fetter Healthcare, a community health center based in Charleston, holds regular vaccine clinics across the area and no registration is needed. The organization regularly updates fettercovid19screening.org/vaccine-clinic with new dates and locations.
In Fairfield County, a drive-thru vaccine clinic 10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 14 at 102 U.S. Highway 321 Bypass North in Winnsboro will not require appointments.
All South Carolinians 16 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine.
New cases reported: 324 confirmed, 178 probable.
Total cases in S.C.: 468,939 confirmed, 89,692 probable.
Percent positive: 8 percent.
New deaths reported: 6 confirmed, 3 probable.
Total deaths in S.C.: 8,118 confirmed, 1,095 probable.
Percent of ICU beds filled: 68 percent.
How does S.C. rank in vaccines administered per 100,000 people?
44th as of April 6, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the total number of newly confirmed cases, Greenville County (52), Horry County (29) and York County (28) saw the highest totals.
What about the tri-county?
Charleston County had 27 new cases on April 7, while Berkeley had 17 and Dorchester had 10.
Of the 533 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of April 7, 138 were in the ICU and 67 were using ventilators.
Six of the new confirmed deaths reported were patients 65 and older, and one was a patient age 35 to 64.
Long-term care facilities
There have been 19,748 confirmed coronavirus cases in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities: 12,231 residents and 7,517 staff workers, according to DHEC data.
So far, 1,907 residents have died from the virus, a mortality rate of 16 percent. Twenty-nine workers also have died. Together, they account for 24 percent of deaths in the state, the data from April 4 shows.
Of the 686 facilities DHEC monitored, the virus has been found in 507. There are active outbreaks at 43 of them — a 41 percent decrease in a week and 70 percent drop in a month.
Some type of visitation — indoor, outdoor or both — is allowed at 638 facilities; 34 do not allow it; 14 did not report.
What do experts say?
Traxler, of DHEC, said ensuring the vaccine makes it to the public quickly is all the more important considering the need to stay "ahead of the spread of the current variants and any future variants."
For instance, COVID-19 is spreading at unprecedented levels in South America, where a mutant strain that originated in Brazil has taken hold. Variants like the Brazilian strain are known to spread more rapidly.