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What the first day of open vaccinations for 16 and older Georgians looked like in Gainesville
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Candler Jones gets a COVID-19 vaccination Thursday, March 25, at McElveen's Pharmacy. Pharmacy owner David Stanley allows recipients to use their car for receiving the dose, and the required 15 minute wait following the shot. - photo by Scott Rogers - photo by Scott Rogers

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Starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, the first day of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for all Georgians 16 or older, Scottie Barton of Riverside Pharmacy said he and other staff were administering a shot every 15 minutes.

“It’s been kind of a hectic day but a good day, just trying to get as many people as we can vaccinated,” he said.

Barton and McElveen’s Pharmacy owner David Stanley both received their 200-dose allocations Tuesday, March 23. Stanley said they have been fully booked all week and have more than 60 appointments already booked for next week.

“We’ve had a waiting list going for probably easily since January,” Stanley said.

When he found out about receiving the vaccine allocation this week, Stanley said he started calling people on the list. It took little time for the appointments to start filling up, he said.

Both pharmacies said they still have some doses available.

According to Department of Public Health data, 99,400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been allocated to providers in Hall County. Almost all of those doses are the two-dose version of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, save 2,300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine allocated to the Hall County Health Department, according to the DPH data.

The Hall County Health Department will be moving its vaccination clinic from the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center to the University of North Georgia’s Hugh Mills Physical Education Center on Mundy Mill Road. The first day of vaccines at UNG will be April 6, and the last day at Chicopee Woods will be April 12.

People with second-dose appointments from now until April 12 will get the shot at Chicopee Woods.

“District 2 has been receiving a steady supply of vaccine,” District 2 Public Health spokesman Dave Palmer wrote in an email. “As with any change, you don’t know what the expanded eligibility demand will be, but we have vaccine on hand and more on order.”

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McElveen's Pharmacy owner David Stanley performs curbside COVID-19 vaccinations Thursday, March 25, 2021, in the parking lot of his Thompson Bridge Road pharmacy. - photo by Scott Rogers

What to do once vaccinated

Dr. Megan Farley of Longstreet Clinic Pediatrics said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health guidelines have not changed much concerning what fully-vaccinated people should do to limit transmission.

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or social distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease, and there is no need for quarantine and testing after an exposure to COVID-19, if they are asymptomatic.

The CDC is still advising that people maintain social distance and wear masks when in public, when around people from multiple households or when around people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease. 

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after the single-shot Johnson & Johnson version.

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for people 16 and older to receive the Pfizer version. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson were authorized for people 18 and older, according to the CDC.

Palmer said clinical trials are underway for people under 16 by vaccine manufacturers, and that data will later be reviewed by the FDA.

“The reality is as far as kids specifically, recommendations won’t really change until they are eligible for the vaccine,” Farley said.

Sinovac said on Monday, March 22, that its COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac is safe and effective in children ages 3-17.

The results were from early and mid-stage clinical trials with over 550 subjects, said Geng Zeng, the medical director at Sinovac, at a press conference.

While the vaccine has already been allowed for use in adults in China, further testing was needed to see how it would work with children.

More than 70 million shots of Sinovac’s vaccine have been given worldwide, including in China.

There were two instances of high fevers in response to the vaccine during trials, one in a 3-year-old participant and the other in a 6-year old. The rest of the participants experienced mild symptoms, Geng said.

“I think that the goal is over the next month as people get vaccinated and our herd immunity increases, hopefully over time we’ll be able to relax the recommendations for unimmunized children, but I don’t think we’re there yet and I don’t think there is any official change yet in guidance,” Farley said.

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Candler Jones gets a COVID-19 vaccination Thursday, March 25, 2021, in her Jeep at McElveen's Pharmacy on Thompson Bridge Road. Pharmacy owner David Stanley gives the jabs in the parking lot, which allows recipients to use their car for the required 15 minute wait following the shot. - photo by Scott Rogers

Poultry workers prepare for shots

Volunteers and medical assistant staff from Good News Clinics vaccinated 217 Pilgrim’s Pride employees Thursday at the Gainesville processing plant.

“The poultry industry is ready and very excited to begin the work of vaccinating their ‘family,’” Good News Clinics Executive Director Liz Coates said in a statement. “The work to take care of the essential workers who take such good care of us is important. This was the first work site vaccination clinic in the poultry industry in the poultry processing capital of the world, and Good News Clinics was glad to be part of it.”

A second clinic at Pilgrim’s is scheduled for mid-April to administer the second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Georgia Poultry Federation President Mike Giles said Georgia’s poultry industry has been collaborating with the local and state Department of Public Health leaders on how to vaccinate employees.

Some poultry companies are set up to receive the vaccine directly, Giles said, though he did not have any estimates on doses allocated to poultry companies.

“Everyone recognizes that providing vaccinations at the work site improves access and the adoption rate,” Giles said. “It makes it easier for people who are working to be able to receive the vaccine at work.”

Giles said vaccinations for poultry companies are underway in some areas and will likely start soon for others.

John Wright, vice president of operations at Fieldale Farms, said they would be allocated doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that would be administered next week at worksites in Hall, Habersham and Stephens counties. Wright said they began repolling employees Wednesday, March 24, in anticipation of these vaccinations and previously received a good response from the workers in favor of receiving the shot.

“What will be interesting now is how many people have gotten it that were able to through the 65 and older (eligibility) or the 55 and older that had some sort of health condition,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Mercia Chavez, Good News Clinics’ lab technician, gives a COVID-19 vaccine to an employee at Pilgrim’s Pride on Thursday, March 25, 2021, during a vaccine clinic at the poultry processing plant. Photo courtesy Good News Clinics.