COVID, children and caretakers: Local woman makes case for caregivers to receive COVID-19 vaccine

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By VICKI BROWN

vbrown@lowcountry.com

Caregivers and parents of special-needs children are making a public plea to county leaders to help push for a faster and easier vaccination process against COVID-19, the contagious respiratory virus. 

Colleton County resident Betsy Altman is the mother of two special needs children. She said she has “her hands full,” caring for her children, dealing with COVID, and seeing doctors for the health issues her kids face while trying to get vaccinated…all at the same time.

“I depend on my mother and husband to help me take care of my children. It’s been hard on them, too,” said Altman. “That’s why vaccinations are so important, especially for caretakers of special needs children.” 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, Altman said her children have been “in and out of the hospital,” with feeding tube issues, swelling, acute encephalopathy, bicuspid aortic valve problems, dysphagia, and other issues related to Turner’s syndrome…just to mention a few.

Therefore, Altman said she was determined to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. She also wants to have her mother and husband vaccinated, since they are the caregivers of special-needs children who susceptible to the virus. 

While Altman had no issues receiving her vaccination, her mother and husband did face challenges, she said. 

“They went to the Fetter vaccine clinic and were told to leave. It was assumed that we forged the paperwork,” said Altman. According to Altman, this happened at the Walterboro-area clinic within the last two weeks. 

“We had the proper paper work, emails from a nurse, and everything we needed to be vaccinated, but my mom and husband were still turned down,” she said. 

Altman isn’t the only person who has had similar issues. While the forms can easily be sent to families who need them and can be printed off a computer, it is difficult to verify who is actually receiving the vaccinations.

According to officials at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC,) South Carolina residents who are the caregivers of people not listed in the age group to receive the vaccine are not entitled to receive the vaccine, at this time. 

“DHEC needs to do something to help. When clinics give vaccines, they need to have information and health records of patients available to see if more than one caretaker is needed at home,” said Altman. “More attention needs to be paid to the families of special needs children. They are fragile and highly at risk, too.”

Who Can Get Vaccinated and When  Can You Get Vaccinated 

As of Monday, March 1st, South Carolina is in Phase 1A. This means the COVID-19 vaccine is available only to healthcare workers, Long-Term Care Facility residents and staff members; admitted hospital patients who over the age of 65; and to all state residents who are 65 years or older who do or do NOT have any underlying health conditions. 

By “early spring,” S.C. DHEC will begin Phase 1B. This will give the vaccine to all frontline essential workers, including law enforcement officers, daycare workers, grocer store workers, teachers, correctional officers, manufacturing workers, and other “essential workers.” 

Phase 1C of the South Carolina Covid-19 Vaccination Program will allow any state resident age 16-64 WITH underlying health conditions to receive the vaccine. Additionally, in Phase 1C, transportation workers, food service employers, public safety workers and non-frontline healthcare workers can be vaccinated, if they choose. 

The final phase is Phase 2. In Phase 2, anyone who wishes to be vaccinated can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This phase is expected to begin in the Summer and go into the Fall, according to S.C. DHEC. 

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