Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner, gave a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccination update to a joint meeting of the House/Senate Appropriations Committee. Here are the highlights of her presentation:
- All vaccine allocations come from the Federal government. The state has no control over that process. The state does not know week to week how many doses will arrive or when. In addition, the CDC, not the state, is controlling logistics. The state advises them where the doses should go, but there have been some breakdowns in that process, including doses that arrived thawed, which renders them unusable.
- Currently, the state has 1700 providers enrolled to provide vaccinations, including volunteers, doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, and public health facilities. The state is setting up mass inoculation stations where they can vaccinate thousands per day rather than hundreds. All of these cannot open until the vaccines are available.
- Opening the eligibility to individuals 65+ adds 1.5 million new people to be vaccinated. With first responders and healthcare workers that amounts to 2 million people in phase 1a. GA has completed 451,000 vaccinations so far, but the amount of available vaccine is the limiting factor in completing more. Per Dr. Toomey, the state has completed more vaccinations than the CDC is reporting.
- Currently, the state is getting about 80,000 doses a week to vaccinate Georgia’s 11 million people. At this rate it will take “many, many months” to get everyone vaccinated. She believes the number of doses will increase but has no specific information.
- Dr. Toomey is aware of the frustration in trying to get appointments, so Georgia is going to a centralized appointment system so people can see where appointments may be available around the state. However, given the number of people trying to access such a system, the server will need to handle the amount of traffic and it will take at least a couple of weeks to get that up and running.
- Outbreaks are still occurring in long-term-care facilities. They represent only about 5% of the population, but account for about 60% of the deaths.
- The state understands that there are significant numbers of elderly people who cannot go to mass inoculation sites or stand in line. They are working with home health providers to provide the vaccinations in their homes, but again the limiting factor is the number of doses available.
- The state was told that the federal government was holding back doses for round 2, but that is not the case. They cannot schedule round 2 for those receiving the first dose until they have the vaccine in hand. The state is now asking CDC to begin shipping the 2nd dose, but Dr. Toomey has no information on time nor dose amount.
- There is no approved vaccine for children (16 & under), which is still in development and testing.
- She has looked at the data and said that never has a vaccine been developed so fast, so effective, and so safe. She said, “I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t believe it.” However, there is no evidence that one inoculation provides long-term protection; two doses are needed.
- The state is experiencing “COVID fatigue.” Young people do not believe it will affect them, but they bring it home to their parents and grandparents. It’s still crucial to wear masks, avoid large gatherings, exercise social distancing and practice regular hand sanitation.
- Staff has been shifted from testing and tracking to vaccinations, but these two aspects are still important. The new variant is easier to transmit and until enough doses are manufactured to meet demand, people must still follow CDC guidelines.
Governor Kemp said Georgia more than doubled its number of reported COVID-19 vaccinations from Monday, January 11th to Monday, January 18th.
I suspect that I am like most of you with regards to COVID-19—sorrowed by the personal and financial loss it has brought to so many people, frustrated at times by the impact on my family’s life, and now hopeful as we move into this period of vaccination.
While this move toward vaccination provides a turning point in our fight against this virus, I first want to take a moment to emphasize that we must remain diligent. We are seeing significant increases in cases, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions from COVID. Please continue to follow CDC guidelines with regards to wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and thoroughly washing hands.
And remember, your HIPnation Primary Care Provider is available as a resource as well.
Please be aware the vaccine distribution is being managed by the states under the guidance of the CDC. The vaccination is free for everyone. The states may change their plans and, therefore, the information linked below might also change. The federal government is also experiencing delays on distributing vaccines, which may impact vaccine timelines. At this point, HIPnation has not been allocated any vaccinations.
In Georgia, the County Boards of Health will provide COVID vaccinations for people who work or live in their county. Scheduling availability is based on how many doses of vaccine they receive every week from the federal government.
At present these groups can register:
- health care workers
- first responders
- people age 65 and older
This is the link for Georgia Department of Health with COVID Vaccination Finder:
The following are links for local county boards. Based on the current limited supply of the vaccine, it will likely be necessary to check the links daily until you can register:
Cobb and Douglas
For our members outside of Georgia, visit your state link below to understand what your state is doing and when a vaccine might be available for you:
Again, information is changing daily so continue to monitor your state and county’s information. If HIPnation is granted to be a distributor of the COVID-19 vaccination, we will notify you immediately.
Dr. Brian E. Hill