COVINGTON, Ga. — The county’s health director says it was just a matter of finding a large enough space for the hundreds of people expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before a vaccination site could return to Newton County.
That site beginning today, April 19, is the Georgia Piedmont Technical College conference center at 8100 Bob Williams Parkway in Covington.
Dr. Audrey Arona, director of the Gwinnett-Newton-Rockdale Health Departments, said she expects about 600 per day will receive the Pfizer vaccine at the new Covington location.
“We’re grateful for this site,” Arona said.
She said the department had been “very blessed” both to secure the Covington site and the former Sears store in the old Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth in Gwinnett County.
“With COVID, you have to be very safe,” Arona said.
“It’s not easy and very challenging logistically to find a location like this,” she said. “Prior to this we didn’t really have a good central location that would work for us.”
The department moved its vaccination site from its Covington health center building near the Newton County Library to Rockdale County in January after finding it to be too small to handle the demand, Arona said.
“We’re going to run, hopefully, 600 people through here in a day. There’s no way we could do that logistically in the smaller health center that we have (in Covington),” she said.
She noted that the timing was good to secure a new Covington site. The recent availability of the vaccine to those ages 16 and up will increase demand significantly, she said.
Newton County Chairman Marcello Banes, who helped locate the site for the health department, and Georgia Piedmont President Tavarez Holston said they received their vaccines today.
Holston, who received the Pfizer vaccine this morning at the Covington site, said he was “proud to partner with the community” to host the vaccine site.
“It didn’t hurt a bit,” he said.
He said it was important the college host the vaccine site because “a large portion of the community” attends classes at Georgia Piedmont.
“We want our community to feel safe,” he said. “But I also think it’s important to join in the overall effort, to show our support and make this kind of effort happen.”
Banes, who received a second dose today at a different site, said he “wanted to encourage everyone in the community” to get their vaccines to stop the spread of the disease which has resulted in the deaths of 213 Newton County residents through Sunday.
“It’s an opportunity right here in Newton County to (get vaccinated). We encourage it. We believe in this to keep our community safe,” Banes said.
He thanked the college and the health department for working to establish the vaccine site in the college’s Building D on Bob Williams Parkway off City Pond Road.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you come together as a team,” he said.
Arona said she hopes the public was encouraged by the Food and Drug Administration’s action to halt use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when only six had medical issues out of 6 million receiving the vaccine.
“I think it’s really representative of our country cares more about safety that anything,” she said.
However, Arona said she did not see it having an effect now on the usage of the Covington site, where most appointments were full four days after they became available.
She said the Covington site could increase dramatically in popularity after the announcement that 12- to 15-year-olds — middle school-aged students — are eligible for the vaccine.
“I think this site is going to be a very, very busy, busy site throughout the summer,” Arona said.
She said the work to halt the spread of the disease is the “race of the V’s, as I call it,” which is “vaccine vs. variants” of the disease.
“The more people who get vaccinated, the quicker we head off these variants,” Arona said.
She said appointments can be made online at gnrhealth.com or by calling the Georgia Department of Public Health vaccine scheduling resource line at 888-457-0186.
Anyone 16 years and up can receive the Pfizer vaccine while the Moderna vaccine is reserved for those 18 and up.
The Georgia Piedmont site is set to operate Monday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.