The state of Georgia on Monday said it expects to close its eight mass vaccination sites before Memorial Day as demand has waned at the temporary facilities and as more COVID-19 vaccines are available through private providers.
The state-run facilities, which are scattered across Georgia, helped rapidly expand access to COVID-19 vaccines. To-date more than 300,000 doses, or about 5% of all doses, have been distributed through them.
The state-run facilities are shifting to single-dose Johnson & Johnson shots and providing second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to complete vaccinations of as many people as possible before their expected closure May 21. First doses of Pfizer vaccine will no longer be administered at the sites after Friday.
“As supply and availability of the COVID-19 vaccines has dramatically increased across the state, far more Georgians are now able to easily access the vaccine at their local pharmacy, grocery store, or doctor’s office,” Chris Stallings, director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency said in a news release.
Stalling said the sites “have experienced a notable decrease in demand over the last two weeks.”
A mass vaccination site at Mercedes-Benz Stadium run by Fulton County and the federal government is scheduled to run through May 19.
Georgia’s vaccination rate remains near the bottom nationally. A recent drop in daily vaccinations — both in Georgia and nationally — could signal the need for a new approach to get to herd immunity.
“It means that states need to reorient their strategies to meet people where they are,” Amber Schmidtke, a public health researcher and former Mercer University professor who tracks the pandemic in her widely read newsletter, wrote last week.
She singled out doctor’s offices, high schools, colleges, churches and grocers.
“This community outreach effort is expensive, time and resource intensive, and inefficient,” she said. “But it’s the work that needs to be done.”
The state announcement comes after federal authorities on Friday lifted a recommended “pause” on the J&J vaccine. For 10 days, scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluated the emergence of a rare blood clotting condition in 15 women out of about 8 million people vaccinated with J&J so far.
In the end, the scientists found that the benefits of the J&J vaccine easily outweighed the risks. The Georgia Department of Public Health quickly announced that it would resume using J&J. The FDA now warns people, especially women between 18 and 49, to watch for symptoms such as headache and abdominal pain that arise a week or two after being vaccinated.
The staffing contract for the eight state-run facilities is set to expire May 21, though that could change if the situation warrants, said Cody Hall, a spokesman for Gov. Brian Kemp.
Residents can sign up for an appointment or find information about walk-up availability at the eight state-run facilities at www.myvaccinegeorgia.com. For more information about the vaccines, to find private sector providers or to book appointments through local health departments, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.
Staff writer Ariel Hart contributed to this report.
Mass vaccination sites scheduled for closure:
Macon Farmers Market: Bibb County, 2055 Eisenhower Parkway, Macon, GA 31206
Delta Air Museum: Fulton County, 1220 Woolman Place SW, Hapeville, GA 30354
Habersham County Fairgrounds: Habersham County, 4235 Toccoa Highway, Clarkesville, GA 30523
LakePoint Sports Complex: Bartow County, 261 Stars Way, Emerson, GA 30121
Gulfstream Aerospace: Chatham County, 2 Innovation Drive, Savannah, GA 31408
Columbus Civic Center: Muscogee County, 1 Lumpkin Blvd, Columbus, GA 31901
Waycross Mall: Ware County, 2215 Memorial Drive, Waycross, GA 31501
Sandersville Word of Life Church: Washington County, 1214 S. Harris Street, Sandersville, GA 31082