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South Carolina News
See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

SC Teachers Continue To Wait For COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine
Courtesy Novant Health
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A health care worker draws a vaccine dose at a Novant Health COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Spectrum Center on Feb. 13.

While North Carolina started vaccinating teachers this week, South Carolina teachers and school staff younger than 65 still are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. South Carolina is prioritizing residents in what it calls Phase 1a — people 65 and older, health care workers and people who live or work in long-term care facilities like nursing homes.

South Carolina health officials said they are focusing on those most likely to become seriously ill or die after contracting the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“In schools that are able to enforce the routine use of masks, to enforce physical distancing, we’re not seeing a higher risk for teachers,” said Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina’s state epidemiologist, at a press briefing Friday. “We do understand that there is some risk there, it’s a risk that we all share in the community. But disease transmission in surrounding communities is what the concern is.”

Earlier this month, South Carolina’s Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey introduced a resolution to prioritize teachers and school staff for vaccinations. It passed unanimously in the state Senate, The State reported, but stalled in the House.

The measure failed to advance out of committee again Tuesday, which Massey tweeted was “essentially the ballgame.”

Gov. Henry McMaster has repeatedly expressed opposition to opening up vaccine appointments for teachers ahead of the next phase of South Carolina’s vaccine plan, known as Phase 1b, which includes teachers and child care staff along with other frontline essential workers like police officers and grocery store employees.

“If we allow teachers to jump the line, we are taking vaccines from our most vulnerable population who are dying from this virus,” McMaster tweeted on Feb. 7. “That is unethical, immoral, and absolutely unacceptable.”

In North Carolina, teachers and school staff such as custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers became eligible for vaccine appointments on Wednesday. In Mecklenburg County, educators make up the majority of the roughly 7,000-person vaccine waitlist, according to the county’s medical director, Dr. Meg Sullivan.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced North Carolina’s new vaccine plan, which placed school personnel ahead of other essential workers like grocery store employees, police officers, farmworkers and restaurant employees, roughly two weeks ago.

Other essential workers have to wait until March 10, when state officials said they would make vaccines available for the rest of Group 3.

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