Southeast Georgia will get its first COVID-19 mass vaccination site in two weeks, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency opened four sites in Southwest, Middle and North Georgia last month, leaving the coastal area about as far as one could get from the vaccination centers in Georgia.
The first drive-thru sites in Albany, Macon, Hapeville and Clarkesville were touted as being able to each administer 1,100 doses of COVID vaccine a day for a total of 22,000 a week between the four.
“(GEMA’s) efforts are designed to address the vaccination needs of underserved populations that have been hardest hit by COVID-19,” GEMA Director Chris Stallings said at the time. “The four sites selected all have surrounding populations with high percentages of minorities and individuals with incomes below the poverty line.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, Kemp announced that on March 17 five more state-operated vaccination sites are slated for Savannah, Waycross, Sandersville, Cartersville and Columbus.
“Specific details of that expansion will be announced in the coming days,” Kemp said.
Stallings said at the press conference that the Chatham County site would be housed in a Gulfstream Aerospace facility in Savannah while the Ware County location will be opened in the Waycross Mall.
“With the opening of the additional mass sites, we’ll have the ability to administer a minimum of 20,000 more doses a week,” Stallings said.
Eligible residents can sign up to receive a notification when the sites open at myvaccinegeorgia.com.
Kemp also announced that 860,000 Georgians age 65 and older had been vaccinated as of Wednesday. That age group accounts for 77 percent of Georgia’s COVID-related deaths, he said.
Roughly 60 percent of the 65-plus age group has been vaccinated, he said, well above the national average of 49 percent in that range.
In total, he said the state has issued 1.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines produced by drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, and that a shipment of 83,000 vaccines recently approved from Johnson and Johnson are expected to arrive soon. Teachers will be given priority in the distribution of that shipment, he said.
“With the data I just laid out, I believe we have done more than almost any state to protect the most vulnerable populations using the limited supply we have been given by the federal government,” Kemp said.
He also reminded residents the state will expand eligibility on Monday to include another 1 million Georgians — pre-K through 12 teachers and school staff, adults with developmental disabilities and their caregivers and parents of children with complex medical conditions, like sickle cell disease, congenital heart disease and obesity.
“These are the children that are likely to suffer complications,” said Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey.
Hospital numbers and deaths among the elderly continue to drop, Kemp said, and as the state acquires more vaccine doses it will continue to ramp up vaccination efforts.
“I’m just feeling like we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel because of the amount of people that have received the vaccine and the supply has gone up and up,” Kemp said.