Kemp: Judges and courtroom staff eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Responding to a backlog of court cases in Georgia that built up since the judicial state of emergency issued in 2020, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is making judges and courtroom staff eligible for COIVD-19 vaccines, effective Tuesday.

"We believe it is vital to get the third branch of state government back operating smoothly and safely," Kemp said."We will be moving quickly ... to expand criteria in order to ensure we don't have vaccines sitting on a shelf or in a freezer somewhere."

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. 

Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, pointed to a decrease in nursing home outbreaks as an encouraging sign the COIVD-19 vaccine is working. 

"There's a lot of availability now," she said. "This is going to be our freedom in Georgia, to be able to get back to the Georgia we want to be."

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp gives an update on COVID-19 vaccine distribution across the state March 16, 2020.

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Kemp remarked on some vaccine hesitancy he's noticed in areas of southern Georgia. He said the demand for the vaccine is lower south of Columbus, Macon and Augusta. 

Kemp urged hesitant Georgians to speak to healthcare providers regarding risks. 

"It is safe, it is very effective," Kemp said.

Kemp said his office is receiving reports of vaccine providers holding doses to ensure there is enough supply for second-dose appointments. Georgia will begin to prioritize COVID-19 vaccine allocation to providers based on inventory and data that reports the efficiency of distribution. The effort is to coerce providers not to withhold doses.

Kemp said his office issued a letter to COVID-19 vaccine providers on Tuesday instructing them to utilize no less than 80% of their weekly allocation of first doses within seven days of receiving those doses. Providers are now responsible for reporting doses within 24 hours of administration, Kemp said. 

"The Biden Administration continues to provide consistent vaccine distribution information with the state, so there is no reason for providers to withhold doses," Kemp said.

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

Kemp said Georgia is expecting an increase in vaccine supply around March 29. This week, Georgia received 458,000 vaccines for first and second doses including 11,500 doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Kemp said he and First Lady Marty Kemp plan to get vaccinated this week. He encouraged all eligible Georgians to do the same. 

James Stallings, Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director, said Georgias that the state's mass vaccination sites are administering doses by appointment only on

Gov. Kemp also reported that about 250,000 shots were administered in Georgia through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination.

He said his team worked with the CDC to find those doses that were given out but were not reported by the feds or the state.

Kemp maintained the state is one of the leaders in vaccinating the population most vulnerable to COIVD-19. Kemp said one million seniors have had at least one dose.

"I'm not worried about politics. I'm worried about following the science and the data... and ensuring that these individuals have access to the vaccination program," Kemp said.

RELATED: Gov. Kemp visits Walgreens pop-up vaccine clinic at DeKalb church

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