Georgia expects COVID-19 vaccine in days, general public will likely wait months


ATLANTA (WSAV) – Gov. Brian Kemp says the COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Georgia in days, going first to the state’s most vulnerable and those on the front lines.

Much of the general public will not be vaccinated for months, he said.

As the governor recently announced, priority will be given to health care workers and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. A limited vaccine supply is expected within the next week to 10 days.

“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 months,” Kemp said. He said it’s critical to keep washing hands, wearing masks and watching our distance.

Georgia recently broke its record for the highest single-day report in COVID-19 cases, with more than 5,000, indicating a possible holiday-related surge.

“We can’t get tired, we can’t give up the continued attention to all those simple safeguards that will keep us safe during this time, even as we’re working to ensure the vaccine is distributed throughout the state,” said Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey.

She said the state has been working on its vaccine distribution plan for months, and based it on Georgia’s pandemic flu plan, as the infrastructure is already in place.

Watch more of Tuesday’s press conference:

DPH’s partnership with Georgia’s hospitals, 159 health departments and CVS will aid in a smooth distribution process, Toomey said, and ensure patients are getting the two doses needed.

DPH has identified freezers available across the state that can house the vaccine at the needed temperature, and special Pfizer carriers will be available to transport doses without such freezers.

Several hundred thousand doses will be arriving, Toomey said, but it won’t be enough to cover Georgia’s most vulnerable population all at one time.

DPH will be making recommendations, and ultimately hospitals and facilities will identify those who receive the vaccine first. For example, someone working in a COVID-19 unit or ICU will likely get priority.

Toomey said by early January, it’s expected all health care workers will be vaccinated. “Probably not until summer will we have vaccine for everyone throughout the state,” she added.

In the meantime, Toomey said getting a flu shot and following public health guidance throughout the holidays will help combat the spread of COVID-19.

She said the flu season has been mild so far, likely due, in part, to Georgians following safety guidelines, like wearing a mask and socially distancing.

“It’s important, again, to protect our hospitals and continue to protect our communities,” Toomey said.

Kemp said he would take the vaccine as early as recommended, adding that while he doesn’t want to take a dose from a health care worker, if it provides confidence to the general public that the vaccine is safe, he would do it in the first round of distribution.

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