MURRELLS INLET — Among the medical outlets facing growing pressure to dole out COVID-19 vaccines from Gov. Henry McMaster, Tidelands Health says that nearly 34,000 individuals who are 70 years and older have signed up to receive the Pfizer vaccine since last Wednesday.
While its percentage of vaccines administered looks low on paper with 37 percent of its delivered doses given out, Gayle Resetar, Tidelands Health’s chief operating officer, said that inventory management was at the heart of their strategy, keeping second doses on hand for Group 1A — made up of frontline healthcare workers and other first response personnel.
The deadline for Group 1A workers to remain atop the priority list for a vaccine was Jan. 15.
“Nothing is going to waste,” Resetar said. “I can tell you what we have on hand, we’ll be down pretty quickly — over the next 10 days.”
With McMaster opening the vaccine process to those 70 and older on Jan. 13 and since demanding that doses available should be given immediately, Tidelands has shifted from lulls in vaccine distribution over the past week to now expeditiously scheduling appointments for people to get the first of two Pfizer vaccine doses.
Nationwide, the relative slowness has caused concern that a second dose may not be available within the recommended 17 to 23 days after the first inoculation. According to medical experts, individuals can get the second dose later than that, with the only drawback being the immunity boost that comes with doing it in the suggested window of time.
Resetar says she is resolute in her belief in that the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control does indeed have the necessary vaccines on hand — or are en route.
“I have to believe it,” Resetar said. “I’m not sitting in Columbia, but you know I feel pretty confident that that supply has been allocated to the state.”
With nurse shortages plaguing hospital facilities nationwide, Tidelands Health hasn’t been immune to stretching all of its resources to the max, pushing it to bring on additional help, both for aid within the operating room, as well as the anticipated need for a massive amount of workers to administer mass vaccinations once open to the public.
That recruitment of hundreds of individuals came with the option of being vaccinated, meaning that doses needed to be at the ready. That came along with projections on what the hospital would need to execute on the employee onboarding.
“We tried to be good stewards to make sure we had enough on hand to meet the demand that we had,” Resetar said. “So, there isn't a challenge. Adding some operating room nurses to this doesn't change one thing, because it's not an issue of have enough staff to do vaccinations. It's about the uptake of the workgroups that we've been limited to providing the vaccine to.”
While available stock of the vaccine might be a challenge in less than two weeks time, welcoming individuals 70 or older is an exciting one for the team at Tidelands Health, the first chance it has had to reach out into the community with a bit of hope.
Tidelands is hosting two clinics in Murrells Inlet and Georgetown for those with an appointment — no walk-ups will be able to get the vaccine. Not everyone will be able to get an immediate appointment, as it will depend on the availability of vaccine supply.
That made those that received it on Tuesday all the more grateful, including Camille Cardarella of Murrells Inlet, who was ecstatic to get the process started, eyeing being able to give her loved ones a hug.
“It’s really been hard,” Cardarella said. “I was very excited that the vaccine was available to me. This is a very good day. It’s a blessing.”
An appointment to receive the vaccine can be done at tidelandsdhealth.org or by calling 1-866-TIDELANDS.