The White County Health Department was flooded with appointment requests following an announcement late last week that Georgia would expand its list of people eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines will soon be available for Georgians ages 65 years and older, law enforcement officers and firefighters – based on available supply, Gov. Brian Kemp said Thursday, Dec. 31. Hospitals, health care clinics and nursing homes will continue sharing in the initial supply of doses. This new round of vaccination is set to begin Jan. 11. Since scheduling began at the White County Health Department on Monday, Jan. 4, 350 appointments have been set to administer vaccines for seniors over the next two weeks, Nurse Manager Cindy King said Tuesday afternoon. Appointments are full from Jan. 11-25.
“White County Health Department received a total of 500 vaccines that hopefully will cover these next two weeks,” King said. “We have requested vaccine bi-weekly and await delivery.”
COVID-19 vaccine appointments can be requested by calling the local health department at 706-865-2191, then selecting prompt 4. Callers should leave their name and phone number for staff to follow up about an appointment time. Residents are asked to not continue calling after leaving their first message.
The District 2 Public Health Office in Gainesville has also revised its online registration portal (www.phdistrict2.org) to accommodate the additional groups now able to receive the vaccine, said spokesman Dave Palmer. Due to high vaccine demand, patience is being asked during scheduling.
District 2 Public Health also offered the following guidelines:
• Vaccines are for residents who live or work in the counties that comprise District 2
• Vaccines will be given by appointment only – Walk-ins will not be accepted
• We will limit the number of people in enclosed spaces by observing recommended social distances to prevent the spread of illness
• Come to your appointment as close to the allotted time as possible to reduce the number of people in the waiting area (you may be asked to wait outside or in your car if you are too early)
• If you have insurance, please bring your card. Insurance will help pay to offset the cost for administering the vaccine.
• There will be no cost to anyone to get vaccinated.
• You should plan to remain for post-vaccination observation for up to 30-minutes
• Prior to vaccination, review of product-specific safety information and consent will be required
• Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccine require two-doses – appointments are required for both doses
• Please understand you will receive the vaccine that is available (Pfizer or Moderna)
The Gainesville-based District 2 Public Health Office will also be revising its online registration portal to accommodate the additional groups now able to received the vaccine, spokesman Dave Palmer said Tuesday. There will be further announcements once operational.
Phase 1-A of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s vaccine distribution initially included only workers in healthcare, EMS, first responders and those in long-term care facilities. Palmer said the White County Health Department had administered 69 doses as of Jan. 4. Vaccine clinics are also planned in White County for those covered under the expanded Phase 1-A.
The Health Department is currently providing the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. King said recipients will be notified when the second dose is available.
A Jan. 4 DPH vaccine order list included only one other provider partner that had been allocated supplies in White County – MedLink Georgia at 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
District 2 Public Health also announced last week it would be reassigning some staff from COVID-19 testing to immunization clinics. The change is intended to help meet the demand of providing vaccines to more people while working through the phases identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Jan. 11, rapid testing appointments will be offered Monday through Friday from 8-9 a.m. only for symptomatic first responders, school employees and court system personnel. Other tests for individual are available by appointment.
Those seeking a COVID-19 test may also contact their doctor’s office.
The next phases for vaccines would include other essential workers and people are at higher risk of COVID-19 illness. No timeframe has been announced for rolling out the vaccine to the general public.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Jan. 5 status update, roughly 483,650 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been shipped to the state, with 110,548 doses administered so far.
Even as vaccines are being distributed, the public is strongly urged to continue wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing and washing hands frequently.
COVID-19 variant detected in Georgia
A new variant of the COVID-19 virus has been identified in Georgia, the state Department of Public Health announced Tuesday, Jan. 5.
The state’s first case of the variant B.1.1.7, which has been found in the United Kingdom and other countries and U.S. states, was detected during a commercial lab’s analysis of a specimen from an 18-year-old male resident. DPH did not provide an area of residence, but said he is currently isolating at home as it tries to identify close contacts for monitoring and testing.
There has been no evidence so far that this particular variant brings more severe illness or raises the risk of death, though studies indicate it is more contagious than the SARS-CoV-2 virus most have associated with causing COVID-19, according to a DPH statement.
“The emergence of this variant in our state should be a wake-up call for all Georgians,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Katheen E. Toomey. “Even as we begin roll out of a COVID-19 vaccine, we must not let down our guard and ignore basic prevention measures – wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands frequently.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been recorded globally and that scientists are continuing to learn more about such variants spread, their health impacts and how well current vaccines work against them. The CDC says it is working with other public health agencies to continue monitoring such situations.