COVINGTON, Ga. — Currently, the only place for the public to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Newton County is the health department, and supplies are limited.
Chad Wasdin, communications director and public information officer for Gwinnett, Newton & Rockdale County Health Departments, told The Covington News on Thursday that the vaccine was available only to individuals who fit into Phase 1A of the state’s vaccine rollout plan and by appointment only.
“Phase 1A includes frontline healthcare personnel, residents of long-term care facilities, first responders (law enforcement, firefighters and EMS), and adults 65 and older (and their caregivers as applicable),” he said. “Individuals must live or work in Georgia.”
People wishing to get the vaccine who are eligible do not have to be vaccinated in their county of residence, Wasdin said. For example, if a Newton County resident sees that an appointment is available at a Gwinnett County location, Wasdin said that person is free to make an appointment.
Vaccine appointments can be made on the health department’s website, gnrhealth.com, but Wasdin said the health department was releasing appointments only for the amount of vaccine currently in supply.
“If there are no appointments available, that means we have scheduled appointments to exhaust our supply of vaccine,” he said. “We will release additional appointments when we have received more doses of vaccine to ensure we can meet demand.
“Our supply of vaccine varies, and there is no set timeline to move to the next phases,” Wasdin continued. “This is an unprecedented undertaking, and we ask for the public’s patience. We also look forward to more private providers signing up to offer the vaccine. That will increase the amount of vaccine availability in our communities.”
Wasdin said some private providers would also have the vaccine available for Phase 1A individuals over time, and that a list of those providers could be found on the Georgia Department of Public Health website, dph.georgia.gov.
Individuals who are sick, “even if it’s just a cold” could not be vaccinated, Wasdin said.
“Experts recommend anyone who currently has or who recently has had COVID-19 delay getting the vaccine for 90 days, since they will develop a 3-month period of immunity,” Wasdin said. “Anyone on isolation or quarantine for COVID-19 cannot be vaccinated. Also, if a person received treatment for COVID-19 in the form of convalescent plasma, remdesivir, or monoclonal antibodies, medical experts recommend waiting 90 days before getting vaccinated.”
Of the vaccines available, Wasdin confirmed there are currently only two approved under “federal emergency use authorizations,” commonly referred to by their pharmaceutical company names: Pfizer and Moderna. Both are two-dose vaccines, he said, spaced three to four weeks apart depending on the vaccine.
“When people come to the Health Department for their first dose, we will make their appointment for their second dose at that time,” Wasdin said.
Wasdin said side effects are mild and temporary.
“Those vaccinated may experience pain and swelling in the arm of the injection,” he said. “They may also experience fever, chills, tiredness and headaches. These typically subside within a day or two. We monitor each patient for 15-30 minutes after they receive the vaccine to make sure they don’t have any immediate adverse reactions.”
Wasdin said people being vaccinated are encouraged to enroll in V-SAFE, which is a program designed by the CDC that checks in after the COVID-19 vaccination.
“It asks basic questions about any side effects a person may be feeling and if these have interfered with a person going about their daily life,” he said. “Based on how a person answers, CDC may reach out to do more investigation. This is an important step to continue monitoring the vaccines.”
Georgia is currently being shipped around 120,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines each week, with roughly one-third of that allotment being administered to nursing home residents and staff through a federal distribution program with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, according to a Tuesday, Jan. 12, report from the Capitol Beat News Service, which leaves state officials with around 80,000 doses weekly to divvy up.
There are approximately 1.3 million people 65 and older, and the state’s roughly 536,000 health-care workers who are first in line to receive the vaccine.
“There are simply more Georgians that want the vaccine than can get it today,” Gov. Brian Kemp said.
Less than one-third of the nearly 700,000 vaccine doses shipped to Georgia as of late Monday have been administered, according to data from the GDPH. Kemp said he aims to have all nursing home staff and residents vaccinated by the end of the month.
Providers began vaccinating Georgians ages 65 and older on Tuesday, per an order from Kemp. He said vaccines were only available to older Georgians where supplies are sufficient.
“Please know that we are working tirelessly to get our limited supply of vaccines to those who need it and who it would do the most good,” Kemp said.
As of Thursday, there were a cumulative total of 654,356 COVID-19 cases recorded in Georgia with 96,566 testing positive within the last two weeks, according to data from the GDPH. The state’s death toll was at 10,580. There have been 45,533 hospitalizations and 7,837 ICU admissions.
For Newton County, 5,396 people have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began with 807 new cases coming in last two weeks. The county’s death toll stood at 131.
Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.