Georgia threw open the doors for COVID-19 vaccinations this week to a majority of adults as the state seeks to improve its worst-in-the-nation share of the population that has been inoculated against the respiratory illness.
Monday was the first day that people aged 55 to 64 could get shots, as well as people with serious health conditions and those who are overweight and obese.
Officials with Gov. Brian Kemp’s office say that, overall, another 3.3 million people are eligible, meaning more than 5 million Georgians overall can now seek vaccination.
Kemp also added judges and court staff to the list of people who can get the shot.
The state opened five new mass vaccination sites on Wednesday and the federal government took over a site in Atlanta. Georgia’s Emergency Management said the five new drive-thru sites will add an additional 20,000 first doses per week.
Georgia has only given 20.8% of its adult population at least one dose, the worst in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The same data show Georgia has administered the second-lowest share of doses delivered among states, with more than one-third of doses still awaiting injection.
As of Monday, the following groups are eligible for vaccinations in Georgia:
- Adults age 55 and old
- Residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, health care workers, and emergency medical personnel
- Law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders of all ages
- K-12 educators and staff and licensed childcare providers of all ages
- People with disabilities
- People age 16 and older with certain medical conditions that increase their risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Conditions include asthma, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, COPD, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, hypertension, heart conditions, immunocompromised state, liver disease, neurologic conditions, overweight and obesity, pregnancy, pulmonary fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and thalassemia.
- Parents of children with complex medical conditions
On Wednesday, the state opened a mass vaccination drive-thru site at Waycross Mall on 2215 Memorial Dr. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Call 844-276-3952 for an appointment and visit myvaccinegeorgia.com for more on eligibility and other details.
Blanche Pritchard was first in line at the new drive-thru site, saying it was not only a no-brainer, it was divine.
“I prayed about it. I said, ‘Lord, if you don’t want me to take it, you block it.’ He didn’t, so,” Pritchard said.
News4Jax followed Pritchard’s progress through the line. After getting the shot, she was directed to the 15-minute observation area. There, people were monitored for adverse reactions before they were permitted to leave.
Pritchard said she is just grateful.
“I have not had the COVID. Been staying isolated. I can go back to church, be around people,” Pritchard said. “I get to see my daughter this weekend.”
Southeast Georgia Health System began offering COVID-19 vaccine appointments at its Brunswick and Kingsland vaccination clinics for residents meeting current eligibility criteria. Appointments to get the Pfizer vaccine at the following locations can be scheduled online at sghs.org/covid19-vaccine:
- Brunswick Campus, Linda S. Pinson Conference Center, 2415 Parkwood Drive - every Wednesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Camden Community Recreation Center - 1050 Wildcat Drive in Kingsland - every Monday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Those receiving the vaccine must provide a form of identification and should wear a shirt that provides access to their upper arm. Masks are required when in a Health System facility. Following the vaccination, recipients will be required to remain in an observation area for 15 minutes to ensure they do not experience any adverse reaction.
Even after receiving the vaccine, according to health officials, it remains important to continue following safety protocols, including wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands frequently and avoiding large gatherings.
More vaccine information is available on the Health System’s website at sghs.org/covid-19.
Starting April 1, Georgia residents 16 and up will be able to get the vaccine under new guidelines.