County vaccine rollout unfair, mayors of south Fulton cities say

Registered nurse Kelli Clayton administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a January event for Fulton County School employees and their spouses who are 65 and older at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Fulton County’s efforts to get COVID-19 vaccinations to lower income senior citizens are falling short for mayors in the south end of the county. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Registered nurse Kelli Clayton administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a January event for Fulton County School employees and their spouses who are 65 and older at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Fulton County’s efforts to get COVID-19 vaccinations to lower income senior citizens are falling short for mayors in the south end of the county. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Fulton County’s efforts to get COVID-19 vaccinations to lower income senior citizens are falling short, say mayors in the south end of the county.

The mayors complained of unfair access and distribution of the vaccine between south and north Fulton at a county Board of Commissioners meeting Friday.

The Fulton County Department of Health currently operates three vaccination sites in partnership with the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency. Those sites are in Alpharetta, at Aviation Community Cultural Center near Charlie Brown airport and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“What are the efforts that the county is taking to make sure that people on the southside of the town actually have access close to where they are,” asked College Park Mayor Bianca Motley Broom.

The county has launched a plan to get more people age 65 and over to vaccinations sites through its senior services program, but the mayors say locations should be closer to where their older residents live.

This week, Fulton started a small pilot program to provide transportation for seniors to the vaccination site at Aviation Community Cultural Center. Dr. Lynn Paxton, district health director of the Fulton County Board of Health, told the mayors the program will be fully implemented starting Feb. 15. Vaccinations will be administered 1:30-3:30 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she said.

Fulton officials said 130,000 seniors age 65 and over live in the county and 22,000 have been vaccinated. Fulton County Epidemiology Director Dr. David Holland told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday he believes there is some racial disparity in the number of people who have or haven’t received vaccines. Seniors who are Black and living in low-income households appear to be in need, he added.

The county has set aside 2,500 doses of the vaccine per month for seniors who continue to be at the highest risk for complications from the virus.

Fulton residents will be informed about the transportation service as they use the county senior services program and when calling the county aging resources hotline, 404-613-6000, or the COVID-19 information number, 404-613-8150.

When seniors are scheduled for a vaccination, an Uber, Lyft, or a contracted shuttle service will take them to the vaccination site at Aviation Cultural Community Center.

Mayor Motley Broom repeatedly offered the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park to Fulton officials during the meeting. Broom and other mayors said they receive constant calls from senior residents in fear of COVID-19 who are looking for help on how to get the vaccine.

Union City Mayor Vince Williams said he received two calls from senior residents while attending the Friday meeting. Residents are unable to get information they need online, he said, and when calling the county hotline they’re told appointments are booked.

“Envision your mother,” Williams said of the phone calls he receives. “Envision your grandmother or your aunt calling. ‘When am I going to get the vaccine?’ ‘Where do I go, what do I need to do?’ ‘I tried to do the online thing. I don’t know how to get online…’ Those are the things that we are faced with right now, today.”

North Fulton mayors voiced support and empathy for concerns raised by their southside colleagues and acknowledged the benefit of the north Fulton vaccination site.

“I think anything we can do to get this resolved as quickly as possible should be done,” Alpharetta Mayor Jim Gilvin said. “This isn’t a north, south issue. This is all of us in it together.”

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