Winthrop University: Faculty and Staff - January 13, 2021
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Faculty and Staff - January 13, 2021

Dear Campus Community:

I am writing because many of you have questions regarding South Carolina’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and its availability to you. The following update is provided by Environmental Health & Safety and Health Services according to information provided by DHEC. It is lengthy, so please read it in its entirety if the vaccine has been on your mind.

About the Vaccine

It’s important to understand that there are two currently available vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.  The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses separated by an interval of 21 days. The Moderna vaccine requires two doses separated by 28 days. The different vaccine products are NOT interchangeable. The series of two doses must be completed with the same vaccine product. Importantly, the vaccine will not be required of anyone in our state. We all need to understand this as many of us will undoubtedly get this question.

What We Know About Distribution

DHEC is following a phased distribution protocol based on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which prioritizes vaccine distribution based on risk levels, age and overall health of the individual. The federal government is taking over distribution of the vaccine, and hospitals and pharmacies will receive the shipments.

It is important to note that there is a limited supply of vaccine availability right now, and it is vital to follow a phased distribution protocol so that those of greater risk receive their 1st and 2nd vaccination doses before those of lower risk. The process for distributing the vaccine is fluid and developing rapidly.  The state may transition into later phases more quickly/slowly based on population demand and vaccine distribution. 

DHEC has included those who work in the educational sector, including college/university personnel, in Phase 1b. We hope to have instructions soon for employees on how to receive the vaccine when their time comes.

Vaccine Availability for Those Age 70+

On Monday we learned that those 70 and older can begin today, Wednesday, Jan. 13, to schedule appointments to receive the vaccine at locations currently accepting vaccine appointments.

DHEC’s online map at  https://scdhec.gov/vaxlocator is now live. This online map will show the locations currently accepting appointments for COVID-19 vaccine, and the map will provide the contact information for scheduling appointments at those locations. The map itself is not a way to schedule an appointment.

Also beginning today, individuals can call DHEC’s Care Line at 1-855-472-3432 for assistance in locating the contact information for scheduling an appointment. The Care Line cannot schedule an appointment but can help provide the phone numbers of locations offering vaccine appointments.

Appointments should be scheduled; walk-ins may not be able to receive the vaccine. A driver’s license or other form of ID that confirms your age must be presented in order to receive the vaccine. South Carolina residency is not a requirement to receive a vaccine. For more information, read the press release.

Options for Winthrop Community

Distribution is now being directed, as mentioned above, from the federal government to hospitals and pharmacies. There are good reasons for this as many previously considered community dispensing sites would be challenged to store the vaccine safely and track two-dose vaccinations.

If the vaccine becomes available to you through your primary care provider, hospital system, or pharmacy, I am encouraging you to get the vaccine that way as soon as possible.

There is an effort underway for a community vaccination site that Piedmont Medical Center will organize at an off-site location to be announced. Winthrop and other entities in the community are being asked to help staff volunteer positions for this clinic. I will share more about this as information becomes available.

Who on Campus Can Get the Vaccine Now?

As noted above, those over age 70 will be able to schedule the vaccine as of today, Wednesday, Jan. 13. The only Winthrop departments eligible to receive the vaccine at this time under Phase 1a are Health Services and Campus Police because it is reserved for those healthcare workers; “at high risk of exposure and mission-critical to the overarching goal of preventing death…and residents and staff of long-term care facilities,” (https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine) as well as for first responders.

I want to note that faculty and student interns in clinical placements from on-campus departments like Human Nutrition and Athletic Training are not in this high-risk group. Our reading of the intent of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and DHEC’s Phase 1a vaccine distribution rationale was it would cover healthcare professionals practicing under provisional licenses (graduates and post-doctoral students pending board examination) in primary critical care with high risk of exposure environments where staffing numbers were stressed by high COVID-19 positivity rates.

More Information

I understand that many of you are experiencing anxiety and want to see this pandemic quickly draw to a close. As we receive more information, I will continue to share it to help you respond appropriately. I hope this update has been informative.

Sincerely, 
George

George W. Hynd
Interim President

Last Updated: 7/13/22