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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.

South Carolina's Biggest Hospice Piloting Homebound Vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine
© Novant Health 2021
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A patient receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Novant Health clinic at Spectrum Center on Feb. 13.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — As communities across the U.S. work toward finding ways to vaccinate the homebound against COVID-19, South Carolina’s largest hospice provider is partnering with state health officials to pilot an effort to vaccinate eligible residents who rarely, if ever, leave their homes.

Agape Care and the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Thursday that they'll launch the pilot program in Hampton and Jasper counties, largely rural areas at the southern tip of the state.

To be eligible for the program, people need to already be in group 1a, the sector of South Carolinians who have been able to schedule and get vaccine doses for several weeks, including people age 65 and up. After scheduling an appointment, a nurse will visit the person's home, administer the Moderna vaccine, and then wait the standard 15 minutes to monitor for allergic reactions.

A nurse will return 28 days later to administer the second shot. If a live-in caregiver is also in group 1a, he or she can get vaccinated too.

The struggle to vaccinate the homebound has been playing out across the country, where millions of residents will need COVID-19 vaccines brought to them because they rarely or never leave home. Doctors and nurses who specialize in home care are leading this push and starting to get help from state and local governments.

They face several challenges, among them the identification of the homebound, many of whom don’t receive regular medical care, making it hard to identify everyone who needs a vaccine.

In South Carolina, public health officials said they hope to begin administering the first shots within two weeks.

“While this program is starting small and is taking place in just two counties, we will learn from this initial roll out and will be able to adapt and expand this service,” said Nick Davidson of DHEC, adding that officials are planning to work with more organizations to implement the homebound program statewide by April.

According to Agape, there are roughly 370 total homebound individuals in Hampton and Jasper counties, areas chosen due to their rural makeup and also relatively high numbers of homebound people.

State health officials said they would send information on the program directly to those who are eligible for it, including details on how to schedule their shots. Homebound residents in group 1a in Hampton and Jasper counties can also call DHEC's vaccination line to be connected with Agape Care, who will schedule the appointment.

“Part of our mission is to serve patients where they are,” said Agape Care spokeswoman Krisdee Clark. “We are excited to be a part of this innovative pilot program."

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.