COVID-19 vaccine to open to teachers, frontline essential workers in South Carolina


South Carolina is expanding eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to Phase 1b, which includes teachers, frontline essential workers, those aged 55 and older and adults with high-risk medical conditions.

The announcement comes as a third vaccine was approved in the U.S. over the weekend, increasing the weekly supply by thousands in the state. People eligible in Phase 1b can start making appointments on March 8, increasing the number of eligible people in the state by about 2.7 million.

“With the significant increase in vaccine supply and progress in vaccinating people in group 1a, front-line health care workers and those aged 65 and over, we are now ready to move to our next phase. Our state’s vaccine plan prioritizes those with greatest risk, while ensuring equal access to the vaccine for every South Carolinian aged 16 and over,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, director of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

A major component of getting teachers vaccinated means they do not have to quarantine if they are vaccinated.

Teachers, their advocates and lawmakers have been pushing for the group to be prioritized or pushed into Phase 1a, and the leader of the state’s teacher’s association voiced disappointment they were included in the larger group of Phase 1b individuals.

“For weeks, the governor stated, ‘teachers will be vaccinated soon but not at the expense of those who are so much more likely to die without the vaccine.’ While PSTA has advocated for vaccination of both the elderly and educators, we have consistently supported the governor’s efforts to ensure vaccine access for those age 65 and above. However, today’s announcement is a different matter as the Governor could have prioritized educator vaccine access within Phase 1b without delaying vaccinations for anyone over the age of 65,” said Patrick Kelly, director of governmental affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association in a statement.

Beginning March 8, appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine can be made by people in the following groups:

  • Anyone aged 55 and up;
  • People aged 16-64 with one or more of the following high-risk medical conditions:
    • Cancer (current, not a history of cancer), chronic kidney disease (any stage), chronic lung disease, diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2), Down syndrome, heart disease (congestive heart disease, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension), HIV/AIDS, solid organ transplant, obesity (BMI >30), pregnancy, sickle cell disease;
  • People who have a developmental or other severe high-risk disability that makes developing severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection more likely; and
  • Frontline workers with increased occupational risk:
    • Must be in-person at their place of work; and
    • Perform a job that puts them at increased risk of exposure due to their frequent, close (less than 6 feet) and ongoing (more than 15 minutes) contact with others in the work environment.

Examples of frontline workers include, but are not limited to, school staff and daycare workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, law enforcement officers, etc.

  • Individuals at increased risk in settings where people are living and working in close contact;
  • Residents and workers in group home settings for the mentally or physically disabled or those with behavioral or substance abuse conditions;
  • Workers and residents in homeless shelters;
  • Workers and residents in community training homes;
  • State and local correctional facility staff with direct inmate contact;
  • Correctional and immigration detention facility inmates;
  • Migrant farmworkers living in shared housing or reliant on shared transportation; and
  • All workers in healthcare and community health settings who have routine, direct patient contact and were not vaccinated in Phase 1a.

Public health officials are projecting Phase 1c to begin mid-April, which includes people aged 45 and up and other essential workers, and Phase 2 to begin in May, which includes anyone aged 16 and up.

For more information on who is eligible in Phase 1b, go to

This is a developing story. More information will be posted soon.