Amid huge interest, Georgians 65 and older struggle to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations

As Georgia gears up to expand COVID-19 vaccinations to include residents age 65 and older and their caregivers, many seniors are finding that scoring an appointment for a vaccination is not easy because of the huge demand.

In Gwinnett County, vaccinations for residents 65 and older have already begun.

Yet, across the Metro Atlanta area, in Public Health District 4, which includes Fayette, Henry, Carroll, Coweta, and 8 other counties, spokewoman Hayla Folden says they are set up and ready to start vaccinating in multiple counties in her district, but they need more vaccine.

"It's very challenging because we want to give it as much as people want to receive it, and, our phones are blowing up," Folden says.  "We can't say it enough that we don't have it.  As soon as we have vaccine, we'll be ready to go."

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Folden says Coweta, Meriwether and Lamar Counties have vaccine to start giving it out to people 65 and up and their caregivers next week.

"But, everyone else, we've made the plans, we have dates and times ready, but we don't have vaccine," she says.

In the North Georgia Health District, which includes Cherokee, Pickens, Gilmer, Fannin, Murray and Whitfield Counties, Immunization Coordinator Ashley Deverell, says they have plenty of vaccine.

Their challenge has been getting people scheduled to come in and receive the vaccine.

The demand, she says, has been intense. In fact, its website crashed Thursday.

"The biggest issue we've had is just being able to get everybody who wants a vaccine in," Deverell says.  "Just the demand has been absolutely overwhelming.  You know, our phone lines go down, our website goes down. We're just so excited to be able to have this demand."

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If you're 65 and older or a caregiver of someone who is, go to your county health department's website for more information on the vaccine distribution in your area.

Keep in mind the vaccine supply is uneven.

Some counties have enough vaccine to expand to phase 1A+, while others don't.

You may need to schedule an appointment, and your county may offer drive-thru vaccinations.

Microbiologist Dr. Amber Schmidtke says Georgia needs to be more ambitious about getting the vaccine out.

"Georgia just moved 4 million people through the voting process in 3 weeks’ time," Schmidtke says. "There is absolutely no excuse for us to have vaccines in the freezer and to not have a mechanism in place to vaccinate people.  We need to be creative."

A good start she says would be to organize mass vaccination clinics at places like sports stadiums and to launch a centralized, statewide appointment system.

"But, let's get these vaccines out," Schmidtke says.  "It does no good to have a vaccine and not a vaccination.  In the freezer, that vaccine is doing nothing."

The health districts FOX 5 has checked in with are asking people to bear with them as they ramp up to expand vaccinations.

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