GEORGIA – Georgia began expanding vaccine availability to adults who are 65 and older on Jan. 11, as well as more types of first responders such as 9-1-1 operators.
It’s created a flood of new demand so far, which has in some instances overwhelmed the capacities of local public health districts.
Officials are asking for patience, noting that telephone lines and websites run by local districts aren’t necessarily accustomed to huge waves of traffic.
In the meantime, though, in some respects it does create a vacuum where people are looking for answers. 11Alive has been receiving a number of questions all day, and will attempt to provide some clarity here:
- Who’s eligible under the new rules? The state has expanded eligibility to adults 65 and over, as well as law enforcement, firefighters and other types of first responders. Frontline healthcare workers and the residents and staff of long-term care facilities were already eligible.
- Can I call the state to schedule an appointment? No, only local public health districts are setting up appointments. There is a state vaccine question hotline at (888) 357-0169, but it is not for scheduling appointments.
- Where can I find info on my local health district? 11Alive has compiled a list of health district setups by county throughout the Atlanta metro and north Georgia here.
- What if my local health district website is down? This has been the case for some districts today as interest in vaccine has skyrocketed. Right now the best answer we can give you is just to try and be patient, as officials work to restore website service. The state did say Monday afternoon it is “currently in discussions to create a centralized system for vaccination and/or mass vaccination sites to provide additional access to vaccine, as vaccine supplies allow.”
- What if all the appointments are taken? That appears like it might be the case in some circumstances. In District 2, for example, which covers much of northeast Georgia, many of the county registration calendars don’t appear to have any availability right now. That could be that they filled up already, or haven’t made it fully operational yet – but in either case, you’ll just have to be patient and periodically check with your health department. Georgia, like every other state, simply does not have enough doses for everyone who wants one just yet. They expanded eligibility, however, because there were some districts where those who were first eligible weren’t using them up, and they wanted to make sure at least somebody got them. See below for more info.
- When will new appointments open up? That would vary by district, but unfortunately it’s not something they’re going to have an answer to right away, as it will depend on vaccine availability that they can’t control.
- Can I try contacting a different health district to set up an appointment? We would urge you not to. It’s not clear if the state explicitly bans it, but the district health websites that are working and taking registrations do ask for information such as your address, so they will know if you’re trying to come in from another area. If you go ahead and try to schedule an appointment anyway, they may ignore you or tell you you’re not eligible, and in the meantime you could be slowing down a system that the people in that district need access to.
- Can I try to go to a private provider, such as a pharmacy? You can do that, and you can find contact information for private providers at this vaccine site locator tool the state Department of Public Health has produced.
- Could I go to a private provider in another county? It’s hard to see why a pharmacy would turn you away if you’ve successfully made an appointment with them, but if you set up an appointment with a pharmacy or other kind of health facility you should make sure to clear that up with them.