South Carolina using honor system as the majority of state is now eligible for Covid-19 vaccine

Libby-Jane Charleston

Picture: Matt Burkhartt

South Carolina's vaccine program will now rely on the honor system as officials ask residents not to "jump the line.'

Nick Davidson, senior deputy for public health with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, says anyone jumping the line, or getting a vaccine before you're eligible, could take a dose away from someone whose life depends more on getting the vaccine quickly.

Mr Davidson has also urged people to get their vaccines if they are eligible. The addition of a third vaccine option is expected to arrive this week, mostly going to independent pharmacies and doctor's offices in South Carolina. State officials will be opening the vaccine appointments to the majority of state residents on Monday.

The vaccines had previously been limited to a smaller group, including nursing home residents and healthcare workers. Officials say it was easier to know who qualified when they showed up or registered for a vaccine.

At least 2.7 million people will be eligible next week. Anyone 55 or older, most people working face-to-face with the public (including retail and first responders) and those with one or more of a wide variety of health conditions will be eligible.

Officials claim it might not always be possible to determine by appearance whether a person is eligible, so they will be giving some doses to people who may not qualify rather than abide by stricter rules, in a bid to prevent possible line jumpers - however such rules could also discourage people from getting the vaccine.

According to Mr Davidson, vaccine providers, including large health providers such as Prisma Health and independent pharmacies, are encouraged to use sensible judgment and avoid complicating the process for themselves and for people who want the vaccine.

Mr Davidson also says South Carolina leaders also considered whether to require paperwork about a medical condition, as some states have, but decided against it because it would mean more burdens for all.

Requiring doctor's notes would force large numbers of people to go get a new note and that would disproportionately affect many of the people who need the vaccine, he said.

"Not only is that not right, it’s not practical. It would further disenfranchise those who may not have access to do so," Mr Davidson said.

Picture: Matt Burkhartt

Instead, the simpler process overseen by vaccine providers instead of the state could involve showing identification for those 55 or older. For medical conditions and employment status, vaccine providers may include questions about those during the vaccine sign-up process.

"We want to make it easy for them," Davidson said. "We believe the vast majority of people will be honest."

It is not clear how many people in South Carolina will be ineligible for the vaccine starting Monday. In other words, how many potential line-jumpers will be in the state by Monday.

According to a 2019 estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau the state has around 4 million adults over the age of 18.

State epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said there are 2.7 million people in Phase 1B, which starts Monday. About 1.3 million are listed in Phase 1A, which began in December, but there is overlap between the two phases.

A third phase, 1C, is expected in mid-April, opening up to those over the age of 45 and more work categories. That phase lists 1.9 million people, although there is overlap.

State officials have yet to release data about how many people will be in the last phase, Phase 2, which opens access to everyone aged 16 and over.

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I'm a journalist and author writing across a wide range of topics, including tech, travel, history, business/startups, relationships, beauty & fashion, British royal history, & local stories concerning Charleston, S.C (where I have a long family history on my father's side: hence my surname! ) Former HuffPost Assoc Ed, ABC TV, ATV Beijing correspondent and many more. Author of "Fatal Females." Mother of three boys: I will love them until the Statue of Liberty sits down.


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