A website designed to allow health care workers to sign up for an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through the Medical University of South Carolina went viral this week, allowing anyone in the general public with access to the link to make an appointment, regardless of their eligibility.
MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said the sign-up website was originally sent to outside health care providers in the community, such as dentists, eye doctors and physical therapists, to allow their employees to get a vaccine through the hospital. Health care workers are considered part of Phase 1A in the vaccine roll-out, giving them access to the vaccine before other high-risk groups.
Woolwine said MUSC was relying on an honor system, trusting that these outside health care providers would not forward the sign-up link to friends and family. But that inevitably happened. She did not know how many people in the community who are not eligible through Phase 1A have already been able to get a vaccine through MUSC. It remains unclear if these people who were technically ineligible but received the first shot anyway will be administered the second booster.
But moving forward, anyone with an appointment will be required to show proof of their health care-related employment, she said.
Some patients who had already made an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine were sent an email Thursday by MUSC explaining that they “will need to present credentials to verify they qualify.” Those who can’t prove they’re part of Phase 1A “will not be vaccinated and (will be) asked to return with proof at their earliest convenience.”
“The upside of this is that these are people who want to get the vaccine. That’s a good thing. We want people to get the vaccine,” Woolwine said. “The concern is supply and demand.
Roper St. Francis is also vaccinating Phase 1A workers in the community who are not directly employed by the health care system, such as paramedics, said hospital spokesman Andy Lyons.
Roper St. Francis uses an external website to allow these health care workers to sign up for a vaccine appointment, but that website has not been widely shared and makes clear that the only people who qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine right now are health care workers or those who work in a health care setting, such as medical office staff.
Roper St. Francis also uses a series of check-points, Lyons said, to ensure that those who get the vaccine qualify for it. Some people have been turned away from their appointments because they didn’t qualify, but he categorized those cases as “not a rampant problem.” He said the hospital system is now weighing extra measures to ensure that the rules of the roll-out are followed.
Trident Health, for now, is only vaccinating its employees.
Meanwhile, some independent health care workers who are not affiliated with a hospital system but do qualify for a vaccine during Phase 1A have not been able to get one.
Dr. Dede Waring, an endocrinologist in North Charleston, explained she has been trying to work with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control since December to get her physician partners and their staff vaccinated.
“The independent doctors have been left to fend for themselves in this 1A vaccination roll-out,” Waring said. “We have been passed over for the initial vaccine allocation while our hospital-affiliated colleagues are receiving their boosters. We have complied with every DHEC requirement in order to administer vaccines to ourselves and to our staff and have been ‘approved’ by their program. Regretfully, we have no idea what that means or when we will receive our vaccine protection. This is unacceptable.”
This story is developing.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.