Photo by the National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

All S.C. residents ages 16 and up will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting March 31, Gov. Henry McMaster and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced today.

Meanwhile, South Carolina health officials reported 657 new cases of the coronavirus and 12 additional confirmed deaths Friday. With 24,303 tests reported, 3.6% were confirmed positive.

“Our priority with the vaccine has been to save the lives of those at the greatest risk of dying. By staying the course and resisting distractions, we’ve expanded South Carolinians’ access and eligibility for vaccinations faster than originally anticipated,” McMaster said in a press release Friday. “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our state’s health care professionals, we are now able to make the vaccine available to anyone who wants it, and to do so ahead of schedule.” 

The Palmetto State moved into Phase 1B of its vaccine rollout March 8, allowing those 55 and older, those with increased risk for severe symptoms and frontline workers to schedule their appointments. DHEC and other vaccine providers have administered around 23,323 doses per day since then, 419,816 in total.

Until Friday, DHEC projected South Carolina was projected to enter Phase 2, general eligibility, in early May.

“We started by making vaccine available to those who were most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19; the elderly, those with high risk of exposure at work, and those with medical conditions that worsen the effects of COVID-19,” DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer said in a press release. “Today, about a year after the COVID-19 crisis began, we are now able to offer three very safe and effective vaccines to all South Carolina residents over the age of 16 – another step on our path to take control of COVID-19 instead of it controlling us and getting back to normal.” 

DHEC and other vaccine providers have administered a total of 1,818,939 doses to South Carolina residents, with 1,163,103 South Carolinians having received at least one dose and 617,787 South Carolinians having completed vaccination. As of March 26, approximately 15% of South Carolina’s population has been fully vaccinated.  

Pfizer is the only vaccine currently available to those aged 16-18. All three vaccines are available to those aged 18 and older. Online appointments can be found using scdhec.gov/vaxlocator.