Georgia and other states are racing to vaccinate as many at-risk people as possible ahead of more infectious strains of the coronavirus. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Georgia are falling, but deaths remain near record highs as people succumb to infections developed during a brutal third wave of the virus.
But supplies of vaccine remain constrained compared to demand.
The DeKalb County Board of Health was forced to reschedule second doses of the Moderna vaccine for several days this week. Eric Nickens, a spokesman for the DeKalb health agency, said affected residents will be notified when the county can fulfill those doses.
Cobb & Douglas Public Health announced it would postpone appointments Saturday and Monday because of the shipping disruption. The agency said on its website that residents whose appointments were canceled will be first in line for appointments this coming week when doses arrive, and residents will be contacted by email, text message or telephone.
People in Phase 1A-plus, including those 65 and older, their caregivers, first responders and health workers, are currently eligible to receive the vaccine in Georgia. Gov. Brian Kemp said Thursday the state will be finalizing plans for expanded vaccine criteria in the next two weeks as the federal government has promised to increase allotments in the weeks and months ahead.
Mass centers to open Monday
On Thursday, state officials announced plans to open vaccination sites in Albany, Clayton County, Macon and near Clarkesville in the North Georgia Mountains, with a goal of administering 22,000 combined doses per week. Those facilities, which will open Monday, are designed to expand as vaccine allotments grow and are critical parts of a state plan to ramp up inoculations.
“We didn’t build and design these state sites for 22,000 doses, we’re designing them for way more than that depending on what that supply is,” Kemp said.
Nationally and in Georgia, whites have received a disproportionately high rate of vaccine doses, while Black residents have trailed.
Kemp said the locations selected were designed to reach minority communities, particularly in Clayton County near the Atlanta airport, which has lagged other metro counties.
Kemp said additional state sites are expected as vaccine allotments grow.
DPH reported nearly 1.7 million vaccine doses had been administered through Friday afternoon, including 544,464 second doses.
On Friday, Georgia surpassed 800,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Including suspected cases, the state is nearing 1 million since the start of the pandemic.
The seven-day rolling average of confirmed and suspected cases was 3,334 on Friday, down 66% since the third wave peaked Jan. 11. There were 2,503 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Georgia as of 4 p.m. Friday, down by 56% from the peak.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that the virus strain first identified in the U.K. could become the dominant one in the U.S. by next month. The strain is more infectious and potentially more deadly, adding urgency to the vaccination effort.
Georgians can register for vaccinations at the state sites at https://myvaccinegeorgia.com. Those not yet eligible can sign up for email updates to notify residents when they can get a vaccine.
In a further effort to reach at-risk seniors, DPH and the state Department of Human Services launched a joint effort this week to assist certain seniors in obtaining vaccinations.
The state agencies and local Area Agencies on Aging announced they will work with older adults who are currently enrolled in home and community-based service programs, such as meal delivery and personal care assistance. There are about 33,000 seniors enrolled in such programs statewide.
The agencies will assist these seniors with vaccine registration, transportation to get shots and assistance with setting up and receiving second doses.