Kemp urges Georgians to 'hunker down' as state prepares to distribute COVID-19 vaccines

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp warned Georgians to continue to follow public health guidelines Tuesday as state officials get ready to distribute the first round of COVID-19 vaccines.

"This is critically important," said Gov. Kemp.  "Our first shipments will not be anywhere close enough for anyone in our state to stop following the same public health guidance that we've had in place for many months.  The limited amount of vaccine doses that we will receive in the coming days will be going to the most vulnerable and those on the front lines of fighting COVID-19."

The Food and Drug Administration could give emergency use authorization to vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna as early as next week.  Kemp said he expects the state to receive shipments in the next 7 to 10 days.

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Dr. Kathleen Toomey with the Georgia Department of Public Health said she expects Georgia to get several hundred thousand vaccines in the first phase of distribution, though she said the exact numbers continue to change.

The state will follow the recommendations of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and provide the first vaccines available to healthcare workers and those who live or work in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

"I think that will allow us to provide vaccine initially to the most vulnerable, as well as those that are most at risk because of the work they do," said Dr. Toomey.

The state has also put a system in place to stay in contact with those who receive the vaccine because it requires two doses spread three to four weeks apart to be effective.

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One of the biggest challenges the state will face, according to Dr. Toomey, is overcoming the concerns some people have about the safety of the vaccines.

"I can't emphasize enough how confident I am in looking at the data and even the new data that was available today, that this vaccine is safe.  No question it's effective and that it will be a game-changer for us in Georgia," Dr. Toomey explained.

Gov. Kemp said both he and Dr. Toomey will get vaccinated to help reassure the public, though they have not determined yet when.

"I'm willing to whatever she thinks would be best.  I certainly don't want to take the vaccine from one of our frontline healthcare workers or one of our most vulnerable, however, if it helps give confidence to our most vulnerable and healthcare workers to take the vaccine early,  I would definitely be willing to do that," said Gov. Kemp.

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