The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control says it has a plan to deliver the coronavirus vaccine to people 65 and older who are stuck at home, just one more patch in the hard-to-solve problem of guaranteeing vaccine access for all.
The public health agency is partnering with a home health agency called Agape Care to deliver the Moderna vaccine to people in rural Jasper and Hampton counties. Three hundred and seventy patients already qualify for a shot because of their age.
DHEC plans to expand the program to more counties in the weeks to come, with a statewide program expected to be in place by April.
"While this program is starting small and is taking place in just two counties, we will learn from this initial roll out and will be able to adapt and expand this service," Nick Davidson, DHEC's senior deputy for public health, said in an announcement Feb. 25.
Statewide, 11,000 people are considered homebound, according to the S.C. Department on Aging.
Agape Care, which operates in South Carolina and Georgia, was among the first providers of its type to enroll to be an approved vaccinator, a DHEC spokeswoman said.
In order for a statewide version of the program to be up and running by April, DHEC needs to enroll more home health care providers. Any agency interested can contact COVIDProviderEnrollment@dhec.sc.gov.
New cases reported: 1,086 confirmed, 334 probable.
Total cases in S.C.: 441,697 confirmed, 71,598 probable.
Percent positive: 5.1 percent.
New deaths reported: 27 confirmed, 8 probable.
Total deaths in S.C.: 7,528 confirmed, 949 probable.
Percent of ICU beds filled: 74 percent.
How does S.C. rank in vaccines administered per 100,000 people?
42nd as of Feb. 25, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the total number of newly confirmed cases, Greenville County (161), Spartanburg County (108) and Charleston County (71) saw the highest totals.
What about the tri-county?
Charleston County had 71 new cases on Feb. 26, while Berkeley County counted 51 and Dorchester County had 19.
Five of the new confirmed deaths reported were among people age 35 to 64, and the remainder were patients age 65 and older.
Of the 916 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Feb. 26 , 212 were in the ICU and 113 were using ventilators.
What do experts say?
With a new vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson up for review with the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 26, South Carolina's public health agency is expecting to receive an initial weekly order of 40,000 doses.
It isn't clear yet exactly how much South Carolina will receive, Davidson said. He added that DHEC is actively working to develop a distribution plan for the vaccine, which differs from the two that are already authorized because it is given in just one dose instead of two.
"We hope to provide as much choice to individuals as possible," Davidson said. "It won't be able to be everywhere right away."
Johnson & Johnson reported its vaccine as 66 percent effective in protecting against moderate and severe COVID-19. Pfizer says its vaccine is 95 percent effective, and Moderna's is 94 percent effective.