Jun. 10—South Carolina's top doctor praised the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday and continued to encourage all South Carolinians to get the shot.
Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist, spoke during a S.C. Department of Health news conference and talked about how far the state has come in the last 15 months since the pandemic started.
The first vaccine doses arrived in the Palmetto State on Dec. 14, 2020, and Bell said, "they've been helping us to fight this pandemic" since they arrived.
"It's really astonishing that we had these vaccines and the feats that we've accomplished that we owe to science and to medicine for the availability of these vaccines," Bell said Wednesday.
"If we think about where we would be today if we didn't have these vaccines, if we hadn't yet vaccinated nearly 2 million South Carolinians with at least a first dose, (our) daily case counts and most importantly, our deaths, would still be at significantly higher and, in fact, alarming rates," Bell said.
"So, where we are now tells us that the COVID-19 vaccines are working; that they're safe, that they're effective and that they're saving lives," Bell continued.
As of the most recent data from June 7, 1,961,774 South Carolinians, or about 46% of the state's population, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 1,653,052 residents, or about 39% of the population, being completely vaccinated.
In Aiken County, 58,057 residents, or about 34% of the county, have received at least one vaccine dose, while 48,512 residents, or about 28% of the county, have been completely vaccinated.
Bell noted that there are still studies being done about the virus and some things are still unknown, including any potential long-term effects. Thus, she urged residents to not be complacent, even given the decline in cases and deaths.
For residents who have not yet been vaccinated, Bell hopes they consider it because the consequences of not getting vaccinated can be "severe" and the benefits are "extraordinary."
She continued by saying DHEC wants to make sure everyone is getting accurate information and not consuming misinformation about what the vaccine might do.
"We ask people to weigh the known benefits, the known safety of the vaccine against the known complications of the disease itself," Bell said. "So when making decisions about the vaccine, they must weigh the risk of the disease itself against the vaccine."
The early barriers of getting vaccinated have been removed, according to Bell.
"It's never been easier to get vaccinated," Bell said. "So, it's really by choice now."