Georgia officials encourage vaccination, boosters before next possible COVID surge

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations drop in Georgia, state leaders encouraged people Thursday to protect themselves ahead of the next possible surge of the virus.

At a news conference, Gov. Brian Kemp said hospitalizations across the state have dropped by a third over the last seven days, with the number of cases also on the decline. However, the governor urged Georgians to get vaccinated before another wave hits.

"I want to emphasize the importance of not waiting until the next wave of COVID cases to get vaccinated," said Gov. Brian Kemp.  "I'm encouraging those who are unvaccinated to talk with your doctor or a trusted medical professional about getting vaccinated before whatever may come our way later this year or in early 2022." 

SEE MORE: COVID-19 booster shots: Who is eligible, where to find providers in Georgia

According to the state, more than 53% of Georgians over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated and more than 64% have had at least one vaccine dose.

"The single most important thing we can do as a state is get additional people vaccinated for the first time," said Georgia Dept. of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey.

Dr. Toomey also encouraged people who are eligible for a booster shot to get one.

Currently Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for boosters, though Toomey said Moderna and Johnson & Johnson should be close behind.

In order to qualify for a booster, you must have gotten the Pfizer vaccine and:

  • 65 years or older
  • In a long-term care facility
  • 18 years or older with an underlying medical condition
  • Someone with increased risk of exposure: healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store workers, etc…

"So when you put those categories together, one simple way to think about it is that the criteria for current boosters are simple.  You've number one, previously received a Pfizer and you're over the age of 18," Dr. Toomey explained.

For more information on how to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health's website:  

As of Thursday, GDPH reported over 1.2 million Georgians have been infected by COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in 2019. A total of 22,354 people have died from the virus and health officials say there are another 3,500 probable deaths.

The seven-day average of new cases of the virus is slightly more than 2,700.

The state has administered over 10.4 million vaccines. Over 5.6 million Georgians - or 54% of the population - have at least one dose of COVID-19, while 47% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. These numbers are below the national average of 65% of the population with at least one dose and 56% fully vaccinated.

Georgia's hospitals are still struggling with the added strain of COVID-19 patients. Health officials report 85% of the state's inpatient beds are being used and over 90% of Georgia's hospitals' ICU beds are in use.

SEE MORE: Crowded ICUs force hospitals to face decisions to postpone non-emergency surgeries