Starting today, all adults age 65 and older, their caregivers, and emergency first responders in the eight-county Coastal Health District, which includes Glynn, Camden and McIntosh counties, can make appointments for COVID-19 vaccination.

The Coastal Health District will begin administering vaccines in what has been dubbed “Phase 1A-plus” on Monday.

“This is obviously a very big expansion and we will work as quickly as we can to overcome any hiccups in this process, and I’m sure there will be some,” Coastal Health District Director Dr. Lawton Davis said at a Thursday press conference. “I fully expect the demand to exceed our capacity, so just be patient. We’re not trying to stonewall anybody. We’ll be answering the phones as fast as we can.”

To make an appointment at the Glynn County Health Department, call 912-264-3961. For the McIntosh County Health Department, call 912-832-5473. The Camden County Health Department can be reached at 912-882-8515.

Other healthcare facilities and hospitals will also start offering the vaccine in the near future, Davis said. He did not have a list ready for public release but encouraged everyone to check with their doctor or pharmacy. He said the health district plans to provide a list at some point on its website, gachd.org.

Some organizations in the Golden Isles already announced their intentions to help, including Coastal Cardiology in Brunswick. The medical center announced Tuesday on social media that it would begin offering the vaccine to patients age 65 and older on Monday. The Southeast Georgia Health System will follow suit.

“Given our current limited supply of the vaccine, we are planning on giving prioritization to first responders and those members of the community that are most at high risk,” said SGHS President and CEO Michael Scherneck. “We will work diligently doing everything in our power to ensure that everyone in our community who desires a vaccine will receive one. As more COVID-19 vaccines become available, further plans will be announced to the community.”

Information on the hospital’s response to COVID-19 can be found at sghs.org/covid-19.

Administering the vaccine will be a trying process, Davis said. Along with new appointments, health departments continue to administer the second shot required to provide the best protection from the highly infectious respiratory disease. The Coastal Health District has around 100,000 people age 65 or older, 30,000 in Glynn, Camden and McIntosh counties. Each of those will need two shots, or 200,000 doses of the vaccine before caregivers or first responders are factored in.

He asked that only true caregivers make an appointment for the vaccine to make sure the people who need it most get it.

“We would respectfully ask people not to game the system,” Davis said. “If it’s a true caregiver, you’re somebody who has to have somebody in your home assisting you. That’s the people we would target.

“Try to respect the process. We literally don’t have enough vaccine for everybody. We’ll still be vaccinating in six weeks and probably six months.”

Since the vaccine was first made available late last year, the health district has administered 3,300 doses and distributed over 2,000 to other healthcare facilities. The issue of finite supplies and the need to administer a second shot three to four weeks after the first has put a hard limit on the speed at which vaccines can be distributed.

“That’s why this whole process has not been as rapid as people would like it to be ... (Vaccine shipments) come in bits and pieces, it’s not consistent and it depends on what the state (Department of Public Health) is able to distribute,” Davis said.

He encouraged anyone who falls within the phase 1A-plus category to set up an appointment, and to remember their second shot.

Davis did note that the vaccine has resulted in a handful of adverse effects.

“Locally, we’ve had a few people that had some type of reaction ... where you feel weak and faint. It’s not a true allergic reaction,” Davis said. “We had a couple of people who developed hives, we’ve had people who had a little fever and general body aches.

“Fortunately, we have not had an anaphylactic reaction here. I’m aware of at least two that have occurred in Georgia, both treated appropriately and effectively.”

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