For The Record

Georgians rush to claim spot in line at most new mass vaccination sites

By: - February 22, 2021 1:06 pm

GEMA Director Chris Stallings and Gov. Brian Kemp gave a report on the opening day for Georgia’s four mass vaccination sites Monday. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Georgia’s first day of operating four mass vaccination clinics began smoothly Monday, but demand was low at an Albany site, Gov. Brian Kemp said at an Atlanta media briefing.

“We’ve seen heavy demand in three of the four sites we have, lagging a little bit in Albany, which is one of the reasons I went down there yesterday,” Kemp told reporters at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency headquarters. “We’re working with a lot of the local elected officials, partners in law enforcement, chambers of commerce and others to make sure we get the word out down there, but I know we’ve got heavy, heavy demand in Macon, Atlanta and Habersham.”

About 200 people have scheduled appointments for the week at the site at the Albany Forestry Commission. Health department workers at each of the sites can vaccinate about 1,100 people per day.

The state’s other four locations, the Delta Air Lines Museum near the Atlanta airport, the Habersham County Fairgrounds and the Macon Farmers Market, are at or near full booking for the week, said GEMA Director Chris Stallings.

“We’re definitely ready to rock and roll this week,” he said as live footage of workers vaccinating people in their cars at the Atlanta site played on the large screen behind him.

The health department will shift shot allotments from places with low demand to places with higher demand, Kemp said.

“Believe you me, we remain very flexible,” he said. “If we’re not seeing demand somewhere, we’ll ship those doses somewhere where there is demand. Obviously, at some point we’re going to expand the criteria, and we’ll have even more demand than we have, so I’m not too worried about that, but we can pick up and move, we can just open another site, we can reduce one site if we’re not getting the volume there.”

The state will soon expand its eligibility criteria to begin vaccinating the next round of people, including essential workers, “in the coming days,” Kemp said.

Only people 65 and older, health care workers, first responders and senior living facility residents and their caregivers are eligible for the vaccine, and Georgians can make appointments or pre-register at Vaccines are given by appointment only.

GEMA is set to double the number of vaccine recipients at its locations in the next three weeks, Stallings said, and the state plans to open new sites as more vaccines come in from the federal government.

Kemp said the state has administered about 1.75 million doses of the vaccine, or about 89% of its allotment. More than 763,000 Georgia seniors have received vaccines.

As of Sunday afternoon, there were more than 804,000 COVID-19 cases reported in Georgia, and more than 14,600 Georgians have died from the virus.

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.