Tidelands Health begins administering second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to seniors 70 and older
For seniors like Thomas Leonard, it was a day to celebrate.
The Murrells Inlet resident received his second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a Tidelands Health regional vaccination site in Murrells Inlet on Tuesday, putting him one step closer to once again seeing family, eating at a restaurant and resuming the many activities he’s set aside over the past year to protect himself from the virus.
“My feeling is relief,” said Leonard, who jokingly asked for a Bloody Mary instead of the water available in the 15-minute observation area after receiving his second dose. “The end of the tunnel is coming around. We see probably this summer we will be getting back to normal.”
“Thank the Lord,” his wife, Charlene Leonard, who also received her second dose Tuesday, chimed in.
The Leonards were among the first seniors 70 and older to receive the first dose of the vaccine from Tidelands Health three weeks ago and were back this week to receive the required second dose for full protection, which kicks in about a week to 14 days after receiving the second dose.
After hunkering down for nearly a year to protect themselves from the virus, many seniors who are receiving the complete regimen are already making plans. Some are eager to see their grandkids, while others simply want to have a meal at a restaurant. There’s talk of eventually resuming the long-forgotten poker nights or having neighborhood gatherings with friends.
“This has been a cloud over seniors, a complete unknown,” Thomas Leonard said. “We are looking forward to the state and country getting this in the rearview mirror.”
Those receiving their second dose know it’s important to continue precautionary measures, including masking, social distancing and frequent handwashing, until a large percentage of the population is vaccinated. Still, the highly effective vaccine is an important step toward returning to a pre-pandemic way of life.
Stephen and Nancy Parchesky of Murrells Inlet are looking forward to a trip to Maine to indulge on their favorite lobster. They missed out on their annual trip to Maine in 2020 but already have it booked for July this year.
“It means I can travel. I can have the lobster,” Stephen Parchesky said.
Nancy Parchesky added, “I’m going to laminate my vaccine card and flash it at the toll booth.”
To date, Tidelands Health has administered more than 16,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including nearly 10,000 doses to people 70 and older. When individuals are scheduled for their first dose, a second-dose appointment is scheduled three weeks later.
Second doses are shipped separately from first doses, and government officials have assured health care providers they will continue to receive an adequate number of second doses to fully vaccinate those who have received their first dose.
“We want to assure patients who are scheduled for their first and second doses at Tidelands Health that we are doing everything in our power every single week to secure vaccine doses for our community,” Resetar said.
The extremely limited vaccine supply being provided to Tidelands Health – and vaccine providers across the country -- is affecting the pace of distribution of first doses. Another 20,000 individuals ages 70 and older remain on a wait list to receive their first and second doses of the vaccine from Tidelands Health, and those ages 65-69 – who became eligible to receive the vaccine Monday – are completing a form to be notified when the health system will again accept vaccine requests.
That timing will depend on the vaccine supply the health system receives from the government.
“Tidelands Health continues to administer vaccine doses as quickly as we receive them,” Resetar said. “The supply simply doesn’t come close to meeting the demand in our region. Tidelands Health has established two regional vaccinations sites and trained staff to vaccinate 5,000 people or more a week – we just need more vaccine to reach that capacity. Other health systems and providers are facing the same challenge.”
The shortage in supply of first doses made the individuals who received their second doses this week even more thankful.
“I’m optimistic for the future,” Bayne Eason of Georgetown said. “I’m glad to have the opportunity to get the shot. I’m looking forward to resuming life as we know it prior to all of this.”