Public health overwhelmed by demand for COVID-19 vaccinations

Georgia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey receivies her first COVID-19 vaccine injection on Dec. 17, 2020. (Bryan Horn/Office of the Governor)

Ten months of public debate over the need for and safety of COVID-19 vaccines have not stopped Georgians from trying to get it. In an urgent notice issued Monday, District 2 Public Health says it’s been overrun with vaccination appointment requests. And it’s the same way statewide.

“Due to the huge response for the COVID-19 Vaccine, all District 2 Public Health Departments’ phone lines, call center, and website is [sic] overwhelmed and unable handle the demand,” the notice states. Health officials are asking everyone to “be patient.”

“We understand that everyone is anxious, but everyone who wants the vaccine will be given the opportunity to get vaccinated,” the notice states. “Currently, there is a limited supply of vaccine available at a small number of providers. As more vaccine is shipped to additional enrolled providers, access to appointments will improve over the days and weeks ahead.”

According to the Department of Public Health website, 555,800 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been shipped to Georgia. Of those, 187,830 doses had been administered as of Sunday, January 10.

The two-dose vaccine is given 21 or 28 days apart, depending on the manufacturer. The Pfizer vaccine is 21 days apart, and the Moderna vaccine is 28 days apart. This means that appointments for the second dose must be scheduled when the first dose is received.

“This process also places some limits on the speed at which the vaccine can be given,” officials say.

Public Health is coordinating with health care providers, colleges, and universities to utilize nursing students, paramedics, and other health care professionals to help administer vaccinations. The Department of Public Health is also scheduling special clinics “where we can vaccinate larger groups of people at one time,” officials say.

The department says these clinics will require larger venues where people can safely social distance while being vaccinated and then wait the required observation time. DPH says it will release information about these clinics once the department has the staffing and vaccine needed on hand.

Appointments will be required.

“We continue to place orders for more vaccine as we administer the vaccine on hand. This will keep our vaccine supply line going,” officials say.

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