Even as the coronavirus has come under more control in Georgia, which has seen a drastic decrease in cases compared to last month, those who are eligible for the vaccine and attempting to get appointments are still finding difficulty.
Some Jewish Atlantans who have received their first dose of the vaccine told the AJT Friday they have had their second dose appointments canceled as their vaccine provider is unable to meet their needs. They have found that they are unable to rebook quickly as they attempt to get their second dosage before reaching the six-week period recommended to get the vaccine’s maximum efficiency.
Ellen Malka of Dunwoody said she has had multiple issues receiving her vaccine at scheduled appointments. Malka told the AJT, “I am disappointed; I want to see my family.”
While vaccine shortages continue to hamper Georgia’s vaccine effort, the state is preparing for a time when the supply is more adequately able to meet the demand.
Gov. Brian Kemp toured a mass vaccination at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park Wednesday. The governor said at a press conference following the tour that the site was vaccinating about 500 people a day there, but that is well below the capacity the facility can handle.
Gov. Kemp remarked, “I wish we had the supply to send them more, and as soon as we do, we will. I think that … a great thing for the people of our state to realize is that there is a lot of infrastructure just like this, not only at this site but at two other sites in Fulton County and all over the state, where there is availability to give more vaccines right now, if we had more supply, and we know that day is coming.”
Dr. Lynn Paxton, the Fulton County district health director, told media that, “We are totally confident that we could, at minimum, do 2,000 a day here.” The next day at the Capitol, the governor held another press conference giving an update on vaccine distribution, highlighting the state’s efforts to prepare infrastructure for the future. While four state operated vaccine sites will be coming online next week, more are expected in the future, Kemp said. “That list of sites can and will expand as we receive more doses and expand the available supply. … These four sites will serve as a first step in a vaccination effort, that we hope will dramatically ramp up over the next few months. This setup would allow us to work out the issues that arise and to scale up at a moment’s notice as more vaccines are on the way.”
One of the larger issues the state has faced in recent weeks has been the inability to accurately project incoming vaccine supplies, creating a host of issues as vaccine distributors received less doses than they expected.
It appears that issue is starting to be resolved, as Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey announced in the Thursday press conference. “We have been seeing a steady, small increase in supply. More importantly, that supply can be projected out for at least three weeks, and that is a difference from before. We couldn’t actually plan vaccination sites because the number of vaccines we were told we would receive might change overnight or by the time we receive them. You wouldn’t know until you opened the box,” she said. “That has improved considerably.”
This means that vaccine distributors can accurately plan vaccine appointments, where before, cancellations were often. While the issue of canceled appointments for those needing a second dose is still present today, Dr. Toomey said she believes that the six-week window, alongside increased vaccine supply and more accurate supply information, will allow for a smoother process in vaccine distribution.
Toomey discussed the issue at the Thursday press conference, giving a potential solution for those nearing the end of the six-week period. “We are still advising providers to order second doses after the first dose, but you still can use … if you’re running short, first doses for second doses, they are the same vaccine.” While the state’s health department officials and the governor manage the receiving side, some of Georgia’s federal officials are attempting to push relief legislation that would help with vaccine manufacturing and distribution.
As part of his first tour since being elected as Georgia’s first Jewish senator, Jon Ossoff is visiting facilities in the state including Grady Memorial Hospital and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Those tours focused on COVID-19 related issues, and the current legislation $1.9 trillion relief package making its way through Congress, the American Rescue Plan championed by President Joe Biden.
After his tour Thursday of Grady, where Ossoff’s wife works as an OB/GYN, the senator gave a press conference giving updates on the legislation and how it intends to fix some of Georgia’s vaccination issues. One of the focuses of the new COVID-19 relief legislation is the “immunization campaign and supporting our healthcare infrastructure,” the senator told the media.
Ossoff is urging his colleagues to pass this relief, as “there is a challenge in increasing vaccine supply. This legislation will include significant investment in making more vaccines available to the American people so that by mid-summer if not before, there are enough doses to get everybody immunized.” While COVID case counts are down, and vaccine supplies are slowly increasing, some Georgia residents are still finding it difficult to receive their second dose.
DeKalb County emailed those who were scheduled to get their second Moderna vaccination in the past few days, over the next few days or next week, and that they will have to reschedule. Meanwhile, an additional email appears to have been automatically sent out reminding people to get their shots at the appointed time.
Some vaccine recipients are now reporting being called directly by DeKalb County to figure out their next steps on getting their second doses.
Malka said she has had multiple issues receiving her vaccine at scheduled appointments. Her first appointment was initially canceled for unknown reasons, but after receiving her first dosage, she had the appointment canceled for her second dosage because of shortages caused by inclement weather.
Now approaching four weeks since her initial vaccine dose, she was told that DeKalb County will reschedule the appointment, and she was relying on that, but has yet to hear back on a new appointment.
Another Jewish Atlantan who asked to remain anonymous had the same issue, with their cancelled appointment now in the control of DeKalb County.
While government officials remain optimistic about the path forward for Georgians to receive vaccines, on the ground the shortages continue to wreak havoc on people hoping to return to a form of normal life, vaccinated.