Bottoms pushes for Biden administration to give vaccines directly to Atlanta

Mayor Bottoms speaks during the Rotary Club of Atlanta event Monday.
Mayor Bottoms speaks during the Rotary Club of Atlanta event Monday.

Credit: Screenshot via Rotary Club of Atlanta

Credit: Screenshot via Rotary Club of Atlanta

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Monday said coronavirus vaccines could be administered effectively in Atlanta if the federal government shipped an allotment directly to the city, rather than the state.

Speaking virtually during an event hosted by the Rotary Club of Atlanta, Bottoms referenced a letter she and dozens of other big-city mayors sent to the incoming Joe Biden administration last month. Large cities, the mayors argued, are better positioned to distribute the vaccine in their communities. Currently, the federal government sends vaccine doses to states.

“Nobody knows our community better than we do. Unlike some other cities, we don’t control our public health department,” Bottoms said. “We are asking for a vaccine allotment directly.”

The mayor said she has not heard back from Biden or members of his staff, but she is encouraged by the president’s actions so far related to vaccines.

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If Atlanta were to get an allotment of vaccines, Bottoms said she would partner with the Morehouse School of Medicine and other local public health experts to find ways to store and distribute the doses.

“I’ve been getting calls from doctor’s offices saying that they have storage capacity and asking for allotments, so we know there’s still some capacity out there,” Bottoms said. “We’ll look to the healthcare professionals ... to make sure that we are able safety and equitably distribute the vaccine.”

She said the city has been working with state officials to get more vaccines to the Atlanta area since it has been hit hard by the pandemic. So far, over 920,000 people in Georgia have received a vaccine, making up nearly 70% of the state’s allotted shipment, according to the state Department of Public Health.

During the rotary club event, Bottoms spoke with Valerie Montgomery Rice, the president and dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine, touching on a number of pressing city issues, including crime and affordable housing.

Bottoms speaks with Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine.
Bottoms speaks with Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Credit: Screenshot via Rotary Club of Atlanta

Credit: Screenshot via Rotary Club of Atlanta

Atlanta experienced 157 homicides last year, up from 99 in 2019 and the most in more than two decades. Aggravated assaults were also up, but serious crime was down overall.

Bottoms said that while crime is up in large cities across the country, “this is in no way offering an excuse or any type of abdication of responsibility for us to address crime in our city.”

“We recognize that a problem in our city is our problem, and we are continuing to do all that we can to address crime in Atlanta,” she said.

Bottoms has been criticized for her administration’s response to violent crime, and she faces a competitive mayor’s race this year in which public safety will be a central issue.

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She mentioned her administration’s recent initiatives to expand the “Operation Shield” surveillance camera network used to monitor the streets; her work to combat “nuisance properties” that the city has said are hotspots for violent crime; and the police departments renewed partnerships with state and federal task forces.

The mayor also acknowledged the first day of Black History Month by honoring the late Braves legend Henry “Hank” Aaron.

“In so many ways he put Atlanta on the map,” Bottoms said. “I do hope that his kindness, generosity and humility will continue to inspire each of us, not just this month but in the many years ahead.”

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