“We are outside of the emergency phase of COVID,” said Cohen while visiting a vaccine clinic hosted by the Conference of National Black Churches at Morris Brown College. “It does mean that the distribution has been different and a little slower. But right now we are starting to see all of those issues really start to clear up.”
She said the vaccines for adults arrived first, and the vaccines for children lagged “but now that’s catching up.”
For the first time, the U.S. has tools to fight a trio of respiratory viruses this fall: flu, COVID, and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.
When the first COVID vaccines became available early in the pandemic, the CDC reached out to the Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC) to help urge Black people to get vaccinated. The CDC and church conference formed a partnership as part of its Partnering for Vaccine Equity Program.
Jacqui Burton, president of the church conference, said member churches have held COVID vaccine clinics across the country, vaccinating about a million people. She expects the latest COVID vaccine will be harder to sell as the pandemic has eased, but said CNBC will continue hosting COVID vaccine clinics. She said churches often combine vaccine clinics with other health services such as screenings for diabetes and prostate cancer.
Before Tuesday’s event, Burton said she reached out to the CDC to invite Cohen to visit the vaccine clinic. She said she was thrilled Cohen accepted the offer.
The CDC recommends the new updated COVID vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. Currently, older adults and those with pre-existing conditions such as immune disorders, diabetes and obesity are considered to be at greatest risk of having a serious illness from COVID.
Most people dying from COVID are over 65, according to the CDC. While older people are most at risk of severe illness from COVID, data shows all ages face a risk from COVID, including long COVID symptoms.
“I think people are saying, ‘Oh, I’ve had COVID before or I’ve already been vaccinated,’ but I want them to understand that their protection from having COVID before or from getting vaccinated before is going away slowly,” she said. “This is the best way to get them back up to being at their best shape coming into this season. Plus, the COVID virus changes.”
Cohen said 333 people in Georgia have died of COVID over the last three months, and 50 died from the flu last season.
ABC News reported about 4 million Americans had received the newest COVID shot as of last week, citing a spokesperson for the federal department of Health and Human Services. That’s about 1% of the U.S. population, and about the same pace as the vaccine rolled out in October of last year.
In Georgia, 180,177 people have received a dose of the newly updated COVID vaccine, which is equivalent to about 1.8% of the population, according to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia public health departments across the state, including those in metro Atlanta, now have limited availability of the new updated COVID vaccines for both adults and children,
At the vaccine clinic at Morris Brown College, which took place on both Monday and Tuesday, a few dozen COVID and flu shots were administered by Walgreens staff.