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Next group of Georgians could begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine soon
Elizabeth Larkins.jpg
Elizabeth Larkins, the director of critical care at Gainesville's Northeast Georgia Medical Center, looks away while receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. She was one of seven frontline health care workers to receive a dose Thursday, Dec. 17. - photo by Nick Watson

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People 65 and older, along with first responders, will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine within the next two weeks if the state receives enough doses, according to state officials.

Those populations will be able to get vaccinated beginning Jan. 11 if the state has enough doses, according to an email from Georgia Department of Public Health spokesman Dave Palmer.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the state health department, announced plans Wednesday, Dec. 30 to add adults 65 and older, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders to the highest-priority group. Health care workers and long-term care facility residents are already eligible.

Kemp said Thursday, Dec. 31 that Georgia had received 120,000 doses this week but state officials did not know what to expect the following week.

Toomey said Thursday that in metro Atlanta, there are “hundreds” of health care workers on waiting lists for a COVID-19 vaccine, but in some areas of rural Georgia, extra doses are sitting unused. About 80% of the population will need to be vaccinated for “herd immunity,” or when enough people are immune to make community spread unlikely.

“At a time we’re seeing the highest community spread we’ve ever had during this pandemic, I think it’s more important to recognize that this (vaccine) is life-saving and can stop the pandemic and get back to normal life,” Toomey said.

Beginning Jan. 2, District 2 of the state health department, which includes Hall County, will start doing less COVID-19 testing to reallocate staff for giving vaccines, Palmer said. Starting then, testing will be available between 8 and 9 a.m. for symptomatic first responders, school employees and court system personnel by appointment.

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