COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expands again in Georgia

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – If you’ve been waiting your turn to be vaccinated, you might be eligible now under Georgia’s expanded guidelines.

Preparations for increased eligibility started weeks ago at the Southeast Health District. More staff members — according to the department’s nurse manager — have been trained to handle an increasing number of calls.

Many people are calling to schedule appointments. Others are asking questions, but Cindi Hart says they can sometimes be simple.

“The first question I get is: ‘Have you had the vaccine?’ And I of course say, ‘Yes,'” said Hart with a smile.

Vaccine eligibility now includes:

  • All adults age 55 and older
  • Anyone age 16 and up with certain health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the expanded health conditions include:

  • Disabilities caused by an injury (e.g., traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury)
  • A disability due to a longstanding condition that could cause vision loss, nerve damage or loss of a limb
  • A disability due to illness such as ALS or multiple sclerosis
  • Other medical conditions
    • Asthma (moderate to severe)
    • Cancer
    • Cerebrovascular disease
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
    • Cystic Fibrosis
    • Diabetes
    • Hypertension or high blood pressure
    • Heart conditions
    • Immunocompromised
    • Liver disease
    • Neurologic conditions
    • Overweight and obesity
    • Pregnancy
    • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Sickle Cell Disease
    • Thalassemia (blood disorder)

You must live in Georgia or be employed in the state to be vaccinated in Georgia, but there is no requirement to be vaccinated in the county in which you live.

It’s important to note that Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for people between the ages 16 and 18. The minimum age for vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson is 18. If you’re younger than 18, be sure the clinic you intend to use has Pfizer vaccine available.

Pfizer is primarily used by the health departments in Chatham and Glynn counties and is available at the state’s mass vaccination sites.

Click here to search for appointments at local health departments.

If you qualify but don’t see any available appointments in your county, consider checking in a nearby county. Plus, there are many providers outside of public health offering vaccinations. A webpage is active to search for available locations.

“We’re very grateful that many of our medical providers and hospitals have enrolled to become a COVID vaccine provider,” said Hart.

Memorial Health Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist and Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Thacker says it may take some time to vaccinate everyone in this expanded group.

“I think we’ll see a huge demand right at the beginning of this phase,” explained Dr. Thacker. “What we’ll see is that we’ve captured the majority of individuals who want to be vaccinated in that pool in the first six weeks.”

Anyone who is hesitant about getting the vaccine should think about the personal benefits. Dr. Thacker says there is a chance everyone could become eligible by May.

“If we have folks that are completely vaccinated …there really is little to no risk that they’re going to expose themselves to variants of COVID-19,” said Dr. Thacker.

For more information on vaccine eligibility and options for appointments, visit wsav.com/vaccine.

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