Georgia officials have launched a new website to pre-register for COVID-19 vaccine appointments and are poised to open four mass vaccination sites in different parts of the state, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday.
The governor’s update came as more than 1.6 million vaccines have been given to eligible Georgians so far, including roughly 500,000 second doses, according to state Department of Public Health data.
The website, myvaccinegeorgia.com, allows Georgians to pre-register for a vaccine appointment even if they do not yet qualify under the governor’s eligibility criteria. They will be notified once they qualify and scheduled for an appointment.
Kemp said on Thursday he is not yet ready to expand who is eligible in Georgia for the vaccine beyond health-care workers, nursing home residents and staff, first responders and people age 65 and older and their caregivers — but that he may do so in the next couple of weeks.
The four mass vaccination sites in metro Atlanta, Clarkesville, Macon and Albany will open Monday and initially administer around 22,000 vaccines per week among them, Kemp said. Those sites can gear up quickly to handle more doses once the federal government allocates more weekly shipments, he added.
“These four sites will serve as the first step in a vaccination effort that we hope will dramatically ramp up in the coming months,” Kemp said at a news conference at the state Capitol.
Georgia is currently receiving shipments of 198,000 vaccine doses per week, up from 120,000 doses the state had been getting in recent weeks. While officials have made a dent in vaccinating people, Kemp stressed demand for shots still lags far behind the state’s current and foreseeable supply.
The supply limits have kept Kemp from adding Georgia school teachers and other staff to the list of vaccine-eligible people, despite loud cries from many teachers particularly in metro Atlanta who have pressed the governor to move them up the line.
On Thursday, Kemp detailed results from a survey he said the state Department of Education recently conducted showing less than half of about 171,000 responding teachers and school staff would not take the vaccine. The governor said the survey will influence when he opens vaccines up for teachers.
“It certainly will factor into our decision,” Kemp said. “But it also shows that demand there was not as much as people thought.”
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s public-health commissioner, said staff in some hospitals and nursing homes outside of metro Atlanta — as well as many Georgians from predominantly Black and Latino communities — are still reluctant or unwilling to take the vaccine.
“This is not a case of vaccine access,” Toomey said Thursday. “It’s a case of vaccine hesitancy.”
She added state officials are “doing everything we can” to work with local leaders, churches and other groups to boost vaccine acceptance rates in under-served areas, while eying Georgia teachers for vaccines “soon."
In the meantime, pre-registering for vaccines now will help state officials overseeing the mass-vaccination sites more easily ramp up distribution once larger dose shipments arrive, said Georgia Homeland Security Director Chris Stallings.
“We can make a significant dent in the list of (eligible) people who need support,” Stallings said.
The four mass-vaccination sites will be open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at:
• Albany branch of the Georgia Forestry Commission: 2910 Newton Road, Albany, 31701
• Delta Flight Museum: 1220 Woolman Place S.W., Hapeville, 30354
• Habersham County Fairgrounds: 4235 Toccoa Highway, Clarkesville, 30523
• Macon Farmers Market: 2055 Eisenhower Parkway, Macon, 31206