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Editorial: Local leaders can be commended for vaccine efforts that are making a difference
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Certified medical assistant Sabrina Edge, of the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, gives Ron Davidson a COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, at the Northeast Georgia Health System Corporate Plaza during the health system's second vaccine clinic for those 65 and over at the site. - photo by Scott Rogers

The good news is that evidence worldwide seems to indicate the vaccinations are making a difference in the ongoing fight against the spread of the coronavirus and the severity of COVID-19 cases being treated.

The not-as-good news is that Georgia is still having a hard time getting the vaccine to where the people are who are eligible to get it, and continues to trail most, if not all, of the nation in per capita vaccination rates.

Thankfully, the news here at home is better, as Hall County’s success in getting the vaccine to local residents is better on a per capita basis than for the state as a whole.

As if we didn’t already have enough reason to sing the praises of local health care providers, you can add aggressive efforts at vaccinating the local population to the list.

Kudos, too, to the community, its residents and local groups, for continuing to promote the idea that vaccines are needed for us to move beyond the dire threat of the disease. We’ve still got a long way to go, but the effort is picking up steam and there’s cause for optimism looking to the weeks to come, when more people will be added to the list of those eligible.

When you have had as many dark months as we’ve endured, any sparkle of light is cause for hope, and while the end of the tunnel is not yet fully illuminated, there is at least a steady beam pushing through the darkness to provide some comfort.

Nationwide, the CDC reports that more than 75 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with more than 40 million fully vaccinated. The numbers are climbing rapidly as distribution problems are addressed and resolved across the country.

In Georgia, roughly 3 million people have been vaccinated with at least one dose; about 1.1 million are fully vaccinated.

The state number reflects a per capita rate of roughly 27,500 per 100,000 residents, giving it the dubious distinction of being the lowest in the nation in stats compiled earlier this week. State officials are well aware that distribution efforts have not been optimal and have left many Georgians frustrated as they try, without success, to make appointments at locations that are already overrun.

Gov. Brian Kemp has said the state will move more of the vaccine to the metro areas from rural areas to help meet demand, though at some point a more concerted effort to get those living in rural communities protected is going to be necessary.

Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager

  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown

  • David George

  • Mandy Harris

  • Brent Hoffman

  • J.C. Smith

  • Tom Vivelo

As it stands, those looking for vaccines are making appointments wherever they can find them, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to a site where the shots are available and open time slots exist.

Given the quality of the local health care system and the community spirit of our area, it is no surprise that the numbers for Hall County are better than those for the state. The most recent numbers show Hall County’s per capita rate at about 35,000 per 100,000 residents, well above the state average and that of many other counties. Neighboring Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, for example, have rates lower than Hall, where some 69,500 people have had at least one dose.

But now is not the time to relax. We need to focus on driving those numbers higher as fast as possible.

The expectation is that Kemp will further expand the base or eligible recipients in April, perhaps to include all adults, and we need to encourage those who make the list to get the shots.

To that end, Northeast Georgia Health System and the hALL In community effort to fight COVID-19 have created materials for area businesses to use to encourage employees to participate in the vaccination program. Those materials are available for download at www.wearehallin.com/covid-vaccine, and at www.nghs.com/covid-vaccine.

While there remain those who are skeptical about the vaccination effort and are adamant they will not participate, we are convinced it is our best effort to move past the dangers of the pandemic.

Recent evidence seems to support that belief. Worldwide, as the number of vaccinations rise, the number of diagnosed cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to fall. Local data shows the same is happening here at home, and while there are likely to be occasional upticks for a while, as more people are vaccinated and herd immunity becomes more evident, we suspect the case numbers will continue to drop.

In Britain, where emphasis has been placed on getting the maximum number of people at least the first dosage while postponing the second if necessary, some 38% of the country’s population has been at least partially inoculated, and the number of new cases has dropped some 90% since early January. By comparison, about 22% of the U.S. population has received at least one shot.

The vaccination effort in the United States definitely is on the upswing. In mid-January, about 800,000 shots were being given daily; the most recent numbers show some 2.5 million vaccinations taking place each day.

Yes, there have been mistakes made in setting up distribution programs, in keeping supplies of the vaccine available and in organizing efforts to convince people to take part, but things are getting better at every level. Sometimes we forget that we are all dealing with problems that never existed before and learning as we go.

We hope area residents will be persistent in overcoming scheduling difficulties and will take advantage of the vaccination program. We hope local businesses, civic groups, nonprofits and the spiritual community will all do what they can to encourage vaccinations. We hope the numbers of those who fall into the fully vaccinated category rise with exponential swiftness, while the case numbers and deaths continue to plummet.

It is about time for that oft-reference pendulum to take a big swing in the positive direction on the misery index.

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