Georgia officials have announced plans to add additional groups of people to the current group of individuals eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
Adults 65 and older, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders are expected to be eligible for the vaccination in the next two weeks, if adequate supply is available. They will join health care workers and long-term care facility residents, who are already eligible to receive the vaccination.
Georgia public health commissioner Kathleen Toomey and Gov. Brian Kemp announced the expansion of the “Phase 1a vaccination criteria” last week — “provided the state continues to receive adequate vaccine supplies,” according to Kemp.
“We will continue to monitor the administration efforts of our public health workers and partners in the private sector, and the supply chain of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to ensure eligible Georgians are vaccinated without delay,” Kemp said.
While the vaccine is starting to be administered, some reports indicate the rollout in the state has been exceedingly slow.
While the federal government allocated funding to develop and then ship the vaccines, it did not allocate funding for the states to actually administer the vaccine until the most recent legislation was passed.
“Different areas of the state are completing Phase 1a at different times based on the number of healthcare workers and LTCF residents and staff they have to vaccinate,” Toomey said. “This expansion of 1a eligible vaccination criteria will allow vaccine to be administered as quickly as possible to our most at-risk populations in terms of exposure, transmission and severity. It also gives health care providers and public health staff time to plan and work with local communities across the state to ensure safe and efficient deployment of limited vaccine supplies.”
Non-health care individuals in Barrow County who are not a first responder can pre-register for the vaccine by going to the Northeast Health District website at:
State leaders continue to urge residents to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently. While the COVID-19 vaccine has shown so far to be 95-percent effective in preventing illness in the individual being vaccinated, it is not yet known if the vaccine fully prevents person-to-person transmission or asymptomatic infections, officials said.
LATEST LOCAL NUMBERS
The latest vaccine news comes as the coronavirus continues to slam the country with its worst surge yet, including around the state and locally.
In its latest daily update at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5, the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed 106 new cases in Barrow County, bringing the cumulative total of cases since the onset of the pandemic to 5,224 and increasing the seven-day rolling average to a high mark of 76 new cases per day.
A 24-hour record-high 131 new cases were confirmed in the county Jan. 1, and the county has a rate of 1,071 new cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks. More than a quarter of county residents on average who were tested for COVID-19 over the last week tested positive.
Sixty-seven county residents have died from COVID-19, with the most recently-reported death occurring on Dec. 31, according to the DPH.
Hospitals in the area also remained nearly full, with Northeast Georgia Health System reporting Tuesday morning that 307 patients being treated across its hospitals and other facilities were positive for COVID-19 and another 51 were awaiting test results. The seven-day average on tests administered at NGHS facilities stood at 34.23 percent.
There were 17 COVID-positive patients at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow in Winder and a one-day record 94 at NGMC Braselton on Tuesday morning. Only two beds were available at NGMC Barrow, and the system reported that no ICU beds were available at NGMC Braselton and NGMC Gainesville.
The death toll at NGHS facilities from COVID-19 had increased to 585 as of Tuesday morning — an additional 37 deaths since Dec. 29.