‘A light at the end of the tunnel’: 1 million Georgians eligible for vaccine on Monday


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – In three short days, 1 million Georgians — by the governor’s count — will become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. It is part of an expanded Phase 1A+, which the governor announced last week.

While local health officials finalize plans for larger vaccination sites, people included in the new group are explaining why eligibility means so much after one year in a strict quarantine.

The expanded group includes K-12 educators and staff, adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities and parents of children with complex medical issues.

The vaccine has not yet been approved for use on children, though doctors — including Memorial Health Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Thacker — hope that time will come this summer.

The group officially becomes eligible on March 8.

“I finally feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Jessica Auner. The Southside resident is the mother and caretaker of her 11-year-old daughter Chloe, a bright-eyed girl with a rare genetic disorder called Rett Syndrome.

“It comes with a whole host of issues: seizures, breathing problems,” she said. The latter is a big reason why Auner says the family keeps everything near Chloe sanitized. Coronavirus, though, is making that process a bit more anxiety-inducing and stressful.

The sentiments are why Auner says she signed up to receive the vaccine even before she became eligible on March 8.

She did so at her local pharmacy and, one week later, received a dose of leftover vaccine. It takes away some of her burden.

“It definitely gives a little more peace of mind knowing that if I do get it, I’m not going to be separated from [Chole] and go to the hospital or potentially pass away and not be able to care for her,” said Auner.

Local doctors say that is the main job of the coronavirus vaccine and should be the main topic of conversation when deciding whether to take it. That includes the Johnson & Johnson version.

“It does prevent people from becoming so severe that they end up in the hospital or they lose their life, and there’s 100 percent protection from that,” explained Dr. Thacker.

Auner heard the same advice from her physician.

“I’ve signed my daughter up for so many medical trials to help her and to help the Rett community as a whole…that for me not to take it, and not to get the vaccine, I think would do her and society as a whole a disservice,” she said.

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