Gov. Brian Kemp dons his mask after speaking with reporters Wednesday. Kemp announced Georgia will open five new mass vaccination clinics this month. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder
Five new state-run mass vaccination sites will open across Georgia this month, bringing the statewide total to nine, Gov. Brian Kemp announced at the Capitol Wednesday.
The new locations set to open March 17 will be the Lake Point Sports Complex in Bartow County, Gulfstream Aerospace in Chatham County, the Columbus Civic Center in Muscogee County, Waycross Mall in Ware County and Word of Life Church in Washington County.
Each of the nine locations will be able to administer 45,000 vaccines per week, Kemp said.
Vaccinations at all of the state’s sites are by appointment only. Health care workers, people 65 and older, first responders and long-term care residents and staff are eligible now. More Georgians will become eligible Monday, including teachers and school staff.
Also set to become eligible Monday are adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their caregivers.
“Developmental disability is characterized by limitations of intellectual functioning or adaptive behavior, so this would be everything from an individual with cerebral palsy to an adult individual with Down syndrome,” said state Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey.
The vaccine has not been approved for children under 16. Parents of children with complex conditions will also become eligible Monday.
“This is medically complex children, everyone from children with complex congenital heart anomalies to asthma, sickle cell disease to obesity, these are the children who are likely to suffer complications or even death if they become infected with COVID, as well as many other familiar other conditions to children such as malignancies, chemotherapy, severe chronic asthma or cystic fibrosis,” Toomey said.
As of Wednesday, Georgia reported administering more than 2.1 million vaccines, including more than 830,000 second doses.
Georgia ranks at the bottom of states for the percentage of population receiving at least one dose and close to the bottom for the portion of vaccine supply distributed, according to data collected by the New York Times.
Kemp bristled Wednesday at suggestions Georgia’s vaccine rollout is less effective than other states.
“The media will always focus on the worst number, not the number that matters the most, and I think that’s what’s happening in this case,” he said. “I’m looking at all those websites, too. You don’t see on that website where George’s is at 60% of vaccinating people over 65 years of age and the national average is 49%.”
Georgia began administering vaccines to people 65 and older before it was recommended by Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the high death rate of older adults who contract COVID-19, causing friction with Democrats and teacher groups who wanted educators to be immunized first.
Kemp asked Georgians to continue following the familiar safety protocols like mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing, and he sounded a more upbeat tone than in his previous COVID-19 briefings.
“I just feel like we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel because of the amount of people that have gotten the vaccine, the amount of supply continues to increase week over week, and I do believe we’re going to get to that point where instead of going up an additional 50,000 doses a week, it’s going to go up by 150,000 or 200,000,” he said.
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