Beginning in March 2021, South Carolina changed the way it had been distributing COVID-19 vaccines to vaccine providers across the state. These changes were based on a Joint Resolution passed by the South Carolina General Assembly and signed by Governor McMaster on February 19, 2021.
From December 2020 (when COVID-19 vaccines were first made available) through early March 2021, South Carolina had been dividing the state’s limited amount of vaccine doses to vaccine providers based on three main variables:
- total vaccine supply in the state
- vaccine providers’ requests for vaccine (how many doses they needed)
- vaccine providers’ utilization rate (how quickly they were giving the shots they had)
This new COVID-19 vaccine distribution method is a regional population approach, based on the four DHEC-recognized regions of South Carolina: Upstate, Midlands, Pee Dee and Lowcountry.
Determining vaccine distribution based on population leads to equal distribution of vaccine and helps make sure each region of the state is receiving a vaccine amount that’s in line with the number of people who live in that region. In addition to the general population of the regions, seven additional factors also are considered for each region.
Five of the seven factors are based on a region’s demographics:
- number of individuals who are 55 and older
- number of individuals who are minorities
- number of individuals with diabetes
- number of individuals with high blood pressure (hypertension)
- poverty level for the region
Two of the seven variables are directly related to disease response with the region:
- the 2-week COVID-19 incidence rate
- percent of the regional population that remains unvaccinated
While the first five factors are fairly static, meaning they’re unlikely to change, the last two factors may change rapidly or frequently, and because they are a direct reflection of disease activity within the region, they are considered to be a greater determining factor for a region’s vaccination needs than the static demographic factors.
To support this regional distribution method, South Carolina is currently forming four COVID-19 Community Assessment Review and Equity (CARE) panels, one for each region. The purpose of the CARE panels is to better receive recommendations from community stakeholders and vaccine providers within each region. These panels will:
- identify gaps in vaccine allocation and utilization and make recommendations for deploying resources to fill those gaps
- offer recommendations on how to best engage underserved communities
- assist in connecting community groups and leaders with vaccine providers
Click here to learn more about the regional CARE panels.