Georgia’s COVID-19 vaccine supply will fall short, top health official says


Georgia plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccines within the next 10 days, but the supply may not be enough to cover all those on the priority list, officials said Tuesday.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said the first and limited supply of a vaccine would be given to health care workers and residents in long-term care facilities. The rest of the state's population will not be able to be vaccinated until months later.

During a news conference Tuesday, Toomey said the state expects to receive “several 100,000 doses” that will be rationed out to hospitals and long-term care facilities weekly. Georgia has been structuring its vaccination plan for months, and it has continued to evolve as federal guidance also has morphed. She expects the number of doses to increase depending on the overall supply. The current allotment, however, will fall short of covering the first group of Georgians.

“We are have been talking with [hospitals] and will continue to have communications with them about how to prioritize their own workers within that priority population,” Toomey said. “Some individuals within hospitals are more at risk than others. For example, a respiratory therapist, someone in the COVID unit, the ICU, will be more at risk than others who may not be exposed to COVID constantly.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine's safety and effectiveness. The vaccine will be reviewed for emergency approval Thursday. In a meeting briefing made public Tuesday, the FDA said evidence shows the vaccine, which is given in two doses, can prevent COVID-19 contraction after the first dose.

President Donald Trump's administration has ordered 100 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine. Still, the company reportedly has said it can't provide additional doses until late June or July because other countries have preordered most of its supply. Pfizer's vaccine was administered to the first set of patients Tuesday in the United Kingdom.

The FDA plans to meet Dec. 17 to review Moderna's emergency approval application for its COVID-19 vaccine that also must be administered in two doses. The two doses for both vaccines vary from three to four weeks apart.

“That means not only do we have to have the system in place, which we do, to track and monitor and call individuals back, but to make sure that people will be willing to come back for that second dose,” Toomey said.

Common side effects of Pfizer's vaccine include pain at the injection site, fatigue and headaches, according to FDA's summary. Other possible side effects are chills, joint pain and fever, the document said.

A recent SurveyUSA News Poll showed about 35% of Georgians said they were either certain or very likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available. Kemp and Toomey said they are willing to take the vaccine to prove its safety to the public.

It is unclear how much the distribution of the vaccines will cost, but Kemp said the state's current efforts were completed with Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. He hopes the federal government would extend the Dec. 31 spending deadline for the funds.

Even though vaccines are on the way, Kemp warned Georgians to continue to follow the COVID-19 precautions.

“We must all continue to still wear our mask. We must still wash our hands,” Kemp said. “We must continue more than ever to wash our distance.”

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