SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Mayor Van Johnson said Chatham County is leading the vaccine push but the goalline remains distant.
“Chatham County is now leading the way in COVID vaccinations, although we’re leading right now on a team that’s not doing as well as we would like for it to do,” Johnson says. Chatham County has fully vaccinated nearly half of its population and 55% have received at least one dose, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s vaccine dashboard.
St. Joseph’s/Candler hospital recently posted a billboard that reads “We’re gaining patients. And losing our patience. Be a hero. Get vaccinated.” A sentiment that’s been echoed by some health care workers in hospitals around the country.
However, the sign has received some backlash from residents.
“So I guess you didn’t consider how each of the family members of these PATIENTS might feel seeing this huh? Nice job…Way to bring awareness…” Evie Hubbart writes in a Facebook post with a picture of the sign.
“The truth is often hurtful. You know, the time is over to play nice,” Johnson said, throwing support behind the hospital. “The stark truth of the reality is that our funeral homes are doing well, they’re doing much better because of COVID patients.”
He also touched on the effectiveness of vaccines, saying that only 0.3% of vaccinated Georgians have been hospitalized and only .009% of that same population have died of COVID. Nearly five million Georgians are fully vaccinated and 5.6 million have received as least dose, according to DPH’s vaccine dashboard.
“You get rid of the wrong information by putting the truth out there,” Johnson says. “And you do the math.”
Johnson also said he’s heard that city employees are taking advantage of its new vaccine incentive program. The collaborative program is offering $500 to employees who get fully vaccinated by Nov. 15. Workers who were previously fully vaccinated will receive the bonus too.
Workers for the City of Savannah, Chatham County, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System and Chatham Area Transit are eligible.
“I’ve heard people are gonna go for it,” Johnson said. Prior to the program, around 50% of city employees self-reported themselves as fully vaccinated, according to Johnson.
He said he thinks workers are seeing two things: one as an opportunity to get vaccinated and another reason being they’re realizing it might become mandated across the nation, as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson receive their expected full FDA approval. Currently, only Pfizer’s vaccine is fully approved while the other two remain FDA approved for emergency use only.
“So you have the ability to do it now and be compensated or do it under a mandate and receive no compensation at all,” Johnson says.
“Over the weekend, I attended funerals of some individuals in our community gone far too soon because of Covid. I do not wish to do these things and I certainly want them to stop and I know the way out of this is being vaccinated,” said Johnson.
Johnson says the vaccination rate in Chatham County is at 49 percent which he says is better than most throughout Georgia. But he said we’re leading a team that is not doing that well.
“So, we have to do better. If you’ve been vaccinated as I have been, we want you to tell people you’ve been vaccinated,” said Johnson.
On the billboard, we reached out to St. Joseph’s Candler and are awaiting comments but were told the billboard is part of an overall publicity campaign from the hospital to encourage vaccinations.
“If you’re unvaccinated and you catch COVID you have a much better chance of being hospitalized and a better chance of being in the ICU and a better chance of dying,” said Johnson. “If speaking the truth makes someone get vaccinated, I say go for it.”
Watch the full press conference below.