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Georgia expanding COVID-19 vaccinations to adults over 55, those with serious health conditions
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Sheila Versteeg gives a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, as the Hall County Health Department holds a vaccine clinic at the site. - photo by Scott Rogers

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ATLANTA — Georgia will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility starting Monday, March 15, to everyone 55 and older, plus younger adults with serious health conditions.

Gov. Brian Kemp made the announcement Wednesday as Georgia continued to post vaccination numbers that raise questions about the effectiveness of the state's efforts to inoculate people against the respiratory illness.

State figures show more than 800,000 doses of vaccine have shipped but not been administered, and that fewer shots were given in the week ending March 7 than in the last week of February.

"We will continue to encourage all eligible Georgians not to wait to get their dose," the Republican Kemp said. "This vaccine, as we have said many times, is safe, is effective, and it's our ticket back to normal."

Right now, people eligible in Georgia include those 65 and older, teachers, emergency workers, medical workers, employees and residents of long-term care facilities, intellectually disabled adults and caregivers of some children with medical conditions.

There have been signs in recent days that supply is exceeding demand for vaccines in Georgia, with some appointments at pharmacies going unclaimed.

Among adults younger than 55 who will qualify include those who have asthma, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease. Those who are overweight and obese will also qualify.

Kemp said people who will be eligible for vaccination starting Monday will include groups that have accounted for more than 92% of Georgia's more than 17,000 COVID-19 deaths. Kemp said if vaccine supplies keep increasing, he wants to soon make them available to everyone 16 and older.

"It is our intent to open up vaccination for all adults early next month," Kemp said.

Some other states in recent days had already increased the number of people eligible.

Alaska's governor on Tuesday announced that his state will become the first in the nation to allow anyone 16 or older who lives or works in the state to get a vaccine.