Georgia opens 5 new mass COVID-19 vaccination sites across state

Five additional mass vaccination sites will open across Georgia Wednesday as the state continues to increase the number of people eligible for shots.

The state had previously opened four mass vaccination sites on Feb. 22, including one near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The five new sites are in Columbus, Emerson, Savannah, Sandersville, and Waycross. 

Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp gave an update on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations throughout Georgia, saying that one of his major concerns was a disparity in demand between the metro Atlanta areas and south Georgia.

The governor said he is unclear if it's hesitancy or lack of urgency, but he hopes the new sites will help reach every area of the state and encourage Georgians to get vaccinated. 

"I would be kidding you if I didn’t tell you I’m concerned about the differential that we’re seeing in the metro areas versus what we’re seeing, specifically in south Georgia, with the availability of appointments, the hesitancy, or lack of initiative, whatever it is, for people to get vaccinated," Kemp said.

RELATED: Georgia seniors still struggling to get vaccine ahead of eligibility expansion

The new sites come days after Georgia expanded the criteria to make more people eligible for the vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility is now open to Georgians ages 55 and older and residents with a list of high-risk health conditions. Some essential professionals are eligible such as healthcare industry workers and educators. Kemp urged all eligible Georgians to make an appointment to be vaccinated. 

Also effective Tuesday, Kemp made judges and courtroom staff eligible for COIVD-19 vaccines.

Kemp also said his office and the Department of Public Health are sending a letter to every provider stating they must use at least 80% of vaccine doses within seven days of receiving them. The governor said he believes some providers, including hospitals, are still holding back second doses despite repeated instructions to stop.

The governor said future allotments will be decided based on that measure, as well as whether providers are forming community partnerships to vaccinate underserved populations. Black and Latino Georgians remain greatly underrepresented among those inoculated.

"We are going to move those doses to where the demand is and ship those doses to where they are used most effectively," Kemp said.

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Georgia ranks dead last among states in the percentage of its adult population that has received at least one dose, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly a third of the doses delivered to the state are still awaiting injection, second worst among states according to CDC numbers.

Kemp again disputed those numbers Tuesday, saying Georgia has identified about 250,000 doses that have been injected but not recorded.

"We have confirmed with the CDC and the White House coronavirus team that the doses were administered, but that they were not recorded as administered here in our state," Kemp said. He accused reporters of playing "pandemic politics" by focusing on Georgia’s poor rankings.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.