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The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in Georgia

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  • Georgians age 65 and older are eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines along with healthcare workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp has urged patience as the state rolls out vaccines to Georgia's 1.3 million seniors, 536 healthcare workers and essential frontline workers with limited supplies.
  • The state has already administered 591,438 COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, having received a combined shipment of 1,125,425 doses of both drugs.
  • Vaccine news is changing quickly. Check this guide for updates in the days ahead. 
Covid Vaccine Trial
Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images

When can older adults get the vaccine? 

Georgians 65 and older are currently eligible to be vaccinated as part of Phase 1A+ of the state's multi-phase plan. But due to very limited supplies, it may be weeks before you can get a vaccine. Gov. Kemp has asked the public for patience as the state attempts to administer COVID-19 vaccines while waiting for more shipments from the federal government. "Our total supply of 120,000 doses next week does not fulfill the demand from seniors and other at-risk eligible Georgians," Kemp said. "At this time we will not be expanding our current vaccine criteria beyond the 1A+ population." 

Phase 1A+ also covers healthcare workers including physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians, and EMS personnel, as well as residents and staff of long-term care facilities and law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders.

The focus then shifts to a select group of essential workers at high risk of contracting COVID-19, who are part of Phase 1B. Examples of this group include employees at grocery stores and food processing plants, educational faculty and support staff, and mass transit workers.

Phase 1C covers people ages 16 to 64 at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions.

The final two phases of Georgia’s plan will depend on increased vaccine supplies. Phase 2 zeroes in on a broader category of so-called critical populations, defined as those working and living in homeless shelters, prisons, detention centers and other community settings. Next are adults between ages 31 and 64. 

Phase 3 incorporates other workers deemed important to the functioning of society, such as hairstylists, restaurant and bar staff, and adults ages 18 to 30. The fourth and final phase will be an effort to immunize those who were missed in previous phases and to deliver second shots to those who have started but not finished vaccines that require a two-shot regimen. 

In the meantime, AARP Georgia state director Debra Tyler-Horton is urging older Georgians to pay attention to CDC guidelines. “Follow their guidelines and be patient,” she said. “They have done the homework, and they’re going to make sure everyone gets taken care of.”

AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has shown that older people are at higher risk of death.

Where can I get a vaccine?   

Eligible people can find a vaccine using the state's online COVID vaccination site locations list. As supplies increase, the vaccine will be offered in a variety of locations across Georgia, including doctor’s offices, federally qualified health centers, health clinics, retail pharmacies and mobile clinics. State health officials are advising eligible Georgians to call their local health departments for assistance in signing up for an appointment.

A limited number of pharmacies are offering vaccine appointments to those who are eligible in Georgia, such as Kroger, Publix Pharmacy, and Ingles Pharmacy.

How do I know when I’ll be able to get a vaccine? 

AARP recommends that you talk to your doctor about the safety, effectiveness and benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. Older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, are at increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.  

You can find updates about the vaccine’s availability for various groups on the Georgia department of health’s COVID-19 vaccine website. You can also call the department at 404-657-2700 or send an email.

I’ve heard that some vaccines require a second shot. 

The initial COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, require two doses. If you get one of these vaccines, you’ll need a follow-up dose a few weeks later to be effectively immunized. “What you have is you get some degree, not optimal, but some degree of immunity a couple of weeks after the first dose,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in December. “That's not optimal. After the second dose, you get optimal immunity anywhere from seven to 10 days after the second dose." 

State health officials will track your COVID-19 immunization with the Georgia Registry of Immunization Transactions and Services (GRITS), which will send reminders about second doses to vaccine recipients. You can learn more about the registry here.

How will nursing home and other long-term care residents get the vaccine?  

The federal government has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer the COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to long-term care residents and staff. The two national drugstore chains say that more than 48,000 of the 50,000 skilled nursing and assisted living communities in the U.S are participating in the program.  

Do I have to pay for the vaccination?  

AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said the vaccine will be administered free of charge to Medicare beneficiaries, with no copays. Some health insurance companies have announced that there won’t be out of pocket costs for policyholders. In Georgia, processing costs of up to $21.93 may be passed along to vaccine recipients, but they must be waived if deemed too costly, according to Georgia’s state vaccination plan.

There are already reports of scammers purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP's Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.  

How long does immunity last after I get vaccinated?  

It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it needs to be administered on a regular basis like the flu shot.  

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated?  

Yes. Experts still need to learn more about the protection the vaccines provide under “real-world conditions,” the CDC says. It could take your body a few weeks to build up immunity after the second dose of a vaccine. And while the Pfizer vaccine is effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19, it’s not yet clear whether someone who’s been vaccinated can still catch the virus and transmit it to others. 

“It will be months before the general public is vaccinated,” Gov. Kemp said last month as the state began offering vaccinations. “We must continue to wear masks, wash our hands and keep our distance. I’m asking everyone to continue to hunker down and do a few simple things for the next few months.”

The vaccine is just one tool that can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC says it could take months for the population to build up immunity and continues to recommend preventive measures such as face masks and social distancing.  

AARP has also called for ongoing monitoring of vaccines, once they are authorized for public use, to identify any risks that weren't evident in the expedited development and review process.  

Also of Interest: 

This guide was originally published on Dec. 22, 2020. It was updated on Jan. 22 with new information about where you can sign up for a vaccine and the number of distributed and administered vaccines.

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