Photo by the National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

South Carolina will move into the next part of its first phase of vaccinations, Gov. Henry McMaster and state health officials announced today. Beginning March 8, COVID-19 vaccines can be given to frontline workers (including school staff, grocery store employees and law enforcement) or anyone 55 or older as a part of the state’s Phase 1b.

Citizens who are pregnant or have cancer, diabetes, a chronic lung, heart and kidney disease, Down syndrome, HIV/AIDS, a solid organ transplant or sickle cell disease may receive the vaccine. The full list of those eligible to be vaccinated in the new phase is available at scdhec.gov/covid19.

While it’s a step forward for the vaccination effort, the Palmetto State Teacher Association said it’s disappointing that McMaster did not prioritize educators in the latest phase. Despite school staff being mentioned among the long list of people who will be able to obtain the vaccine, the organization believes the lack of prioritization will lead to teachers waiting “weeks or months” for an appointment.

“Vaccinating our educators will further mitigate the risk of transmission in schools, something that becomes more important as daily school enrollment increases with the shift away from hybrid instructional models,” the PTSA wrote in a press release, adding McMaster has pushed for a full school reopening for months.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Environmental Control counted another 496 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 445,523. In South Carolina, 7,606 people have died from the virus.

The vaccination’s Phase 1c will begin April 12, according to the state, and will include essential workers and anyone age 45 or up. Phase 2, which will make the vaccine available to all citizens 16 and older, is planned to begin May 3.