Georgetown County first responders begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine
Tidelands Health is working with four local fire-rescue departments to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 50 first responders over the next week.
With COVID-19 hospitalizations setting records, first responders who are coming into contact with COVID-19 patients on calls need the vaccine’s protection.
About 10 personnel from Georgetown County Fire/EMS received their first dose of the vaccine Tuesday at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital and will be back in three weeks to receive the second dose.
“It’s kind of scary out there,” said Tony Hucks, assistant fire chief at Georgetown County Fire/EMS, who received the vaccine. “I’ve seen firsthand how sick people can get.”
About 50 first responders from four departments – Georgetown County Fire/EMS, Midway Fire Rescue, Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Department and the Georgetown City Fire Department – will be receiving the vaccine over the next week.
“Like many of our front-line workers, our first responders are coming into close contact with COVID-19-positive individuals throughout their workday, and it’s crucial we keep these essential personnel protected,” said Gayle Resetar, chief operating officer at Tidelands Health. “Our health system now has more COVID-19 patients hospitalized than we did during the previous peak over the summer. We must keep our health care workers and first responders protected so they can care for others.”
On Tuesday, 62 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized at Tidelands Health hospitals in Murrells Inlet and Georgetown – a record number that surpassed the summer peak. It was the second consecutive record-setting day for the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized.
“As much as we have seen in the field and with the increase in Georgetown County with COVID-19 patients and people testing positive – we all have got to do our part,” Hucks said. “Now that the vaccine was made available to us, we want to be the first to come in here and get it.
“It’s a great day for Georgetown County.”
The vaccinations are part of an ongoing partnership between Georgetown County and Tidelands Health. The county has supported the health system at community COVID-19 testing events and by offering assistance at the hospitals. The health system also will coordinate with the county to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to the county’s law enforcement personnel when that phase of vaccination arrives.
“We appreciate the partnership,” said Brandon Ellis, director of Georgetown County Emergency Services. “It’s important for our first responders to get the vaccine not just for their health and safety but also for the health and safety of the community. They are the ones on the front lines delivering emergency care.”
In addition to first responders, Tidelands Health continues to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to its workers. By Tuesday – less than a week since Tidelands Health vaccinated its first health care workers – nearly 500 team members had received the vaccine. Vaccination clinics for the health system’s team members are continuing each weekday.
Resetar said the health system is also coordinating with state officials to plan for the eventual rollout of the vaccine to others in the community. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control will determine when the vaccine will be available to a broader group of individuals, including seniors, essential personnel and people who are immunocompromised or who are at high risk of complications from the virus.
The rollout is expected to take months. The CDC has said it expects anyone who wants a vaccine should be able to receive one in 2021. For the latest on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the vaccine resource center at tidelandshealth.org.