Coastal Health District works to clear vaccine appointment backlog

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- The Coastal Health District (CHD) says they are still working through their appointment backlog as COVID-19 vaccine demand climbs higher than ever.

“We still have not yet opened back up for appointments,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, director of CHD.

The expansion of phase 1A to include adults 65 and older brought employees to a tipping point. Davis says only about 50 percent of Chatham County’s first responders opted to get the vaccine, while older adults are showing very little vaccine hesistancy.

“The interest from the 65 and over age group has been tremendous,” said Davis.

Still, hundreds of vaccine hopefuls are on a waiting list and employees are trying to catch up.

“They worked on Saturday and Sunday down here working through the backlog to get those people that were on the call list scheduled,” said Davis.

Georgia and South Carolina are ranked among the slowest states to administer the shots. Officials say that could be because health systems are slow to report their numbers. He says the state is using a data entry system that is dated and hard to navigate.

“From what we can tell the numbers reported on the CDC are no where close to what’s been done in Georgia,” said Davis, “and I know there are high levels of discussion with CDC to try to fix that.”

In the meantime, Johnson and Johnson’s new COVID-19 drug is expected to get emergency use authorization by the end of the month. District officials say it could increase vaccine supply by close to 50%.

“I think if most or any area could get a much larger supply of vaccine,” said Davis, “we could utilize some other distribution methods in partnership with city’s and county’s.”

Davis says the Johnson and Johnson vaccine only needs to be administered once and doesn’t require deep freezer storage.

He says 40% of the state’s vaccine doses are being allocated to long term care facilities. These are being distributed through pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens.

He says once that process is complete it could free up enough supply to start up drive-through vaccination sites.

The Coastal Health District hopes to open their phone lines back up soon.

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