CONWAY — With more than 30,000 still awaiting their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine through hospitals up and down the Grand Strand, the impact of vaccine allotment continues to be an obstacle for local health providers.
While Conway Medical Center and Tidelands Health have yet to cancel any appointments, the former is being calculated about the number of appointments it sets up each week, while the latter has yet to open its appointment system up to the group of those 65 and older — the latest group of seniors that Gov. Henry McMaster has added to the Phase 1A group.
At CMC, while requesting 7 trays of the Pfizer vaccine in the week of Feb. 15-19 — each tray is the equivalent of 1,170 doses — the hospital received 2 trays, one earmarked for first doses and the other to complete the inoculation for hundreds.
“We make the request for doses, but until they arrive, we do not know what we will receive and whether our request will be fulfilled,” said Allyson Floyd, a CMC spokesperson.
The 1,170 doses looks like an increase from previous weeks, although it represents the same amount of vials, as intricate work by hospitals around the state has changed the expectation of how many doses can be drawn from each vial, moving from 5 to 6.
According to a CMC spokesperson, the hospital has been getting 6 from each vial for weeks and will not represent a change in the number of people it can vaccinate.
To date, CMC has received more than 30,000 appointment requests, fulfilling about half of them. It does plan to open other vaccination facilities once the supply is more predictable.
Currently, CMC’s capacity is to do roughly 450-500 vaccinations per day.
“Our schedulers are working to contact those on the list to schedule their appointments as soon as we can, although we can only make appointments based on supply and how much vaccine we receive,” Floyd said.
Tidelands Health, while also pointing to similar ongoing supply chain issues, did announce a record week for vaccine distribution from Feb. 15-19, indicating it had vaccinated some 5,200 people during the week.
Instead of a significant uptick in supply, Tidelands pointed to continuing technique to get a sixth dose from every vial, as well as “effective management of supply amid vaccine shortages and shipment delays around the country.”
Tidelands is operating two vaccine clinics, one in Murrells Inlet and the other in Georgetown. To date, it has administered 23,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, including more than 17,000 to seniors 70 and older.
“It’s been a challenging juggling act, but our team continues to persevere – fueled by our dedication to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Gayle Resetar, chief operating officer of Tidelands Health. “It was nice to see our regional vaccination sites hopping this week. We hope to continue this pace – and ramp up even more – if we can get more vaccine supply from the government each week. We are working diligently to administer the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine in our community.
“The only factor slowing our pace of distribution is the extremely limited and uncertain vaccine supply.”
While both hospitals continue to juggle vaccine demand, each facility’s ICUs are seeing less strain by COVID-19, with CMC dropping into the single-digits for the first time since before the Thanksgiving holiday.
With Spring Break on the horizon for the latter half of March and throughout April, there is some concern that another extended holiday could lead to another influx in cases throughout the region — particularly considering Myrtle Beach is commonly a popular Spring Break destination.
“We encourage everyone to continue with mask wearing, social distancing and the washing of hands,” said Floyd. “We have to stay vigilant, we have to give the vaccine time to work.”
Myrtle Beach planning vaccine event
According to a note from the city of Myrtle Beach, it is planning to host a vaccination clinic at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in the coming weeks, although no definitive date was given.
The city will work with McLeod Health on the clinic, with the Phase 1A criteria still in effect, while an additional clinic will arise four weeks after the original in order to dole out second doses.
“Planning is underway as we await word on receipt of the vaccine and availability of an appointment process to provide ease of access to this clinic,” the note said.
According to the city, it anticipates the event lasting two days and will likely be by appointment only.
For both Horry County Schools and the Georgetown County School District, the number of cases self-reported have dipped over the past 7 days.
As of the afternoon of Feb. 19, HCS had 93 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 67 students and 26 employees. An additional 96 staffers were in quarantine, while the district does not report students in quarantine.
The district announced on Friday that three middle schools — Forestbrook, Socastee and Myrtle Beach — would all return to full-time, face-to-face instruction on Feb. 25. All elementary schools have already done so, with the goal to have the rest of the middle schools and high schools ready by the middle of March.
Meanwhile, at GCSD, the district reported 27 positive COVID-19 cases as of Feb. 19, while 99 students and 37 staffers were in quarantine. McDonald Elementary had 21 students in quarantine, with no other school reaching double-digits.
On Feb. 16, the GCSD school board made the decision to move all the district’s students into its Prime educational model — full-time, face-to-face instruction — by March 8.
Coastal Carolina update
Coastal Carolina University had two of its athletic teams cancel games over the past 10 days, with the women’s basketball team halting program activities due to COVID-19 for the third time this season.
Meanwhile, the men’s soccer team was unable to kick off its spring season on Feb. 20 due to COVID-19 in the program.
According to a university spokesperson, the two incidents were isolated and not related to one another.
Overall, CCU has seen a significant rise in cases since welcoming students back to classes, with the weeks of Jan. 21-27 and Feb. 4-10 seeing 34 cases each, the highest number of on-campus cases since the week of Sept. 16.
From Feb. 11-17, CCU had 17 cases, 16 of which were with students.