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Greenville Business Magazine

Vaccine appointments opening up statewide

By Liv Osby

As the supply of Covid-19 vaccine has improved, so has the availability of appointments at Prisma Health locations around the state.

In fact, appointments are available today, said Dr. Saria Carter Saccocio, ambulatory chief medical officer and co-chair of Prisma’s Covid-19 vaccine task force. 

The hospital system opened 3,000 new first-dose appointments today and based on projected supply it anticipates opening many more next Tuesday, she said. 

“The supply has stabilized over the past few weeks,” she said during a press briefing Friday. “Prisma Health received 22,230 doses across the system (this week) and next week we expect to receive 30,400 doses.”

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Friday that all South Carolinians 16 and older will be eligible to get the vaccine as of March 31 and can start scheduling appointments next Wednesday. 

Statewide, a total of 1,818,939 doses of vaccine have been administered, with 1,163,103 South Carolinians getting at least one dose and 617,787 South Carolinians fully vaccinated, representing 15 percent of the population.

As of March 25, Prisma had administered more than 283,600 vaccines statewide, she said.

“We know getting the vaccine has been frustrating, but we are opening more appointments all the time,” she said. “So please be patient.”

Prisma has had a number of cancellations for second-dose appointments, Saccocio said, which is “concerning” because both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are required for 95 percent immunity. 

Part of those cancellations may be because people scheduled a second dose in more than one place, she said. But it’s important to get the second dose at the same place as the first to manage allocation of the vaccine, she said. 

On the other hand, she said, Prisma vaccination sites have not had any leftover doses at the end of the day and have in fact used up supply they got from other providers. 

“We don’t waste a single vaccine,” she said. “We have a system in place to contact people in order to not waste a single dose.”

In addition to the scheduled vaccine clinics, Prisma has been vaccinating people in rural areas, the homebound and the homeless through its mobile units with the help of community partners such as churches and community centers, Saccocio said.

“Mobile units help us address barriers for those who are eligible, such as awareness and education about the vaccine and eligibility, lack of email, digital literacy or internet access, or distance to vaccine sites,” she said.

Prisma has also partnered with organizations like Miracle Hill and the Salvation Army to vaccinate community members at their shelters and at group homes, said Angela Orsky, vice president of post-acute services. 

And last week in Sumter, she said, staff began vaccinating home-care patients during their routine visits using the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Because of an increase in the number of testing sites and a decline in the demand for hospital testing, Saccocio said Prisma has decided to phase out its hospital-based drive-through testing and transition that work to physician practices. 

Drive-through testing at Greenville Memorial, Greer Memorial and Laurens County hospitals will close March 26, while it will end on April 2 at its Richland and Twomey hospitals and on April 9 at Oconee Memorial, she said.

Physician offices will be following standard protocols to protect patient safety, such as mask wearing and distancing, she said. And some will do curbside testing or use alternate entrances for testing. 

Patients can arrange testing with their Prisma provider or by calling 1-833-277-4762, she said.

Saccocio set the current number of patients hospitalized with Covid at 110-120 a day, down from a peak of 550 a day in January. And as a result, it has expanded its visitation policy, she said. 

“One of the hardest things about the pandemic is not being able to offer regular visitation for loved ones,” she said. “We are able to offer more chances now.”

As of March 26, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported a total of 462,140 confirmed and 84,530 probable cases of coronavirus. There were 8,031 confirmed and 1,061 probable deaths.

The number of new cases per day has dropped from a high of 6,172 on Jan. 8 to 657 on March 24.

But although there’s been a downward trend, Saccocio said South Carolina “is not out of the woods yet.” So people should still wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart and wash their hands regularly.

“It’s making a difference,” she said.