LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - Operation Warp Speed produced and delivered a COVID vaccine in record time. But it’s not worth much if people who want it can’t get it.
As of Wednesday, providers in Georgia have taken delivery of 511,025 doses. According to the Department of Public Health website, only 123,030 people have been vaccinated. That’s around 24%.
"What good are they if they have it and they can’t do it?" complained ER physician Howard Stirne.
Current vaccination phases for GA. First responders were originally in 1b, 65+ in 1c. They've since been added to 1a.
A FOX 5 I-Team investigation discovered some parts of Georgia with huge demands for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, while others continue to sit on huge stockpiles.
In Region 2 in the Northeast part of the state, the health department covering a 13-county region has been allocated 13,425 shots. They’ve vaccinated only 2500 people.
The DeKalb County Health Department has 8200 shots on hand. As of Wednesday, they had vaccinated 492 people.
Yet the Gwinnett-Newton-Rockdale Health Department uses all of its allotment — currently around 700 doses a day. So many people log onto the county website to make appointments that it periodically crashes.
"We’re making appointments available as we get vaccine available," explained spokesman Chad Wasdin. "We want to make it available to all Phase 1a recipients as soon as we can."
Phase 1a originally included only healthcare workers and long term care residents. When a surprising number of workers opted not to be vaccinated, last week Governor Brian Kemp announced he was adding two new groups to Phase 1a: first responders like police and firefighters. And anyone 65 or older.
Gwinnett was one of the first in the state to start vaccinating that age group.
Joan Horstman didn't play the lottery, but for the 81-year-old Lawrenceville resident this was her lucky day.
"I didn’t expect this," said Joan Horstman, 83. "I figured it would be another couple of months or more." We watched her get the Moderna shot, sit in an observation area for 15 minutes and then head home. She’ll be back in 28 days to get her second shot.
"I’m really looking forward to the booster so I can meet my friends for lunch," she said. "I haven’t been in a restaurant in a year."
Gwinnett also decided to vaccinate the caregivers of that 65+ age group. And you don’t have to live in the three-county area to get an appointment.
"We see it as being fair that way because the vaccine is a federal resource," said Wasdin.
In fact, Gwinnett County has received inquiries from other states. As long as they’re in the Phase 1a group, they can be vaccinated in Gwinnett, too. But that’s a long drive.
It’s unclear whether other health districts are also opening their appointments. Many won’t start offering vaccination slots until next week.
Why such an imbalance? Health department spokesman Nancy Nydam gave several reasons:
* overwhelmed medical staff too busy to help with vaccinations
* higher number of healthcare workers who declined to get the shot
* CVS and Walgreens are just starting up their nursing home vaccination programs
She also indicated the vaccine numbers may not be reported in a timely fashion.
But if a provider has too much vaccine, why can’t they just give it to anyone who wants it?
It’s because they signed a contract with the CDC. It’s called the Vaccination Program Provider Agreement. They can only administer the vaccine to people qualified to receive it. Break the contact, and a provider can be charged criminally.
Page three of eight-page Vaccine Provide Agreement that warns of civil or criminal penalities if shots are given to people not in the approved phase.
If there continues to be surplus, other groups could be moved up the list. Teachers are currently in Phase 1b.
"It’s certainly encouraging let me say that we have so much interest from the public," said Wasdin. "I think one of our initial fears was that people may be vaccine hesitant. The more we get, the sooner we’ll make appointments available."
If you or a loved one is 65 or older — or are part of another group in Phase 1a — here are links to help you sign up for the vaccine. There are NO WALK-INS. You will not get a choice between Pfizer or Moderna.
- Forsyth, Lumpkin, Hall, Dawson, Banks, White, Habersham, Union, Towns, Rabun, Stephens, Franklin, Hart County click here.
- Barrow, Jackson, Madison, Elbert, Clarke, Oglethorpe, Greene, Morgan, Walton, Oconee County click here.
- Gwinnett, Newton, Rockdale County click here.
- DeKalb County click here. (Vaccinations will take place at their BrandsMart site in Doraville and the former Sam’s Club in Stonecrest.)
- Fulton County click here.
- Cobb and Douglas County click here. (Jim R. Miller Park is being converted into a drive-through vaccination center.)
- Clayton County click here.
- Cherokee, Pickens, Gilmer, Fannin, Murray and Whitfield County click here. (But until Jan. 11, call 1-888-881-1474)
- Henry, Butts, Lamar, Upson, Pike, Spalding, Fayette, Coweta, Meriwether, Troup, Heard, Carroll County click here.
- Paulding, Haralson, Polk, Bartow, Floyd, Gordon, Chattooga, Walker, Catoosa, Dade County click here.
- Jasper, Monroe, Putnam, Hancock, Baldwin, Jones, Bibb, Peach, Crawford, Houston, Twiggs, Wilkinson, Washington County click here.
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