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Hospitals wait for guidance to move to next phase of vaccinations



AUGUSTA, Ga. – Several local hospitals are working to get the COVID-19 vaccine out of their freezers and into the public’s arms.

The problem is some people won’t have access to it.

“There’s a lot of mistrust between certain communities and health care organizations, and we’re trying to break down those barriers,” Augusta University epidemiologist Justin Moore said.

Moore is working with 100 Black Men of Augusta to provide COVID-19 testing and eventually vaccines to the community.

“Access to healthcare lacks a lot in the underserved communities, black communities throughout the country. Even though AU is literally right here, proximity doesn’t necessarily mean access,” Moore said.

But on both sides of the river, hospitals are struggling to get the vaccine out to anyone.

State Sen. Tom Young says Aiken Regional Medical Center doesn’t have enough cold storage and not enough staff to even give out the vaccine.

DHEC also announced Monday that they will launch a new online tool where people can register to get the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the Peach State is moving into vaccine distribution Phase 1A+, which includes health care workers, people 65 and older, first responders, and people in long-term care facilities.

To get the vaccine in Georgia, the Department of Public Health has a new online tool as well. The vaccine locator button shows you where you can receive a vaccine, but right now, AU says they don’t even know when they’ll get more doses or when they can actually start on the next phase.

Our local hospitals say it’s up to the state health department to decide when they can move into the next phase.

“We would love to do more, but some of this red tape and bureaucracy has stood in our way, not because anyone wants it to, but just because there are a lot of difficulties with deploying this vaccine,” Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer at AU, said.

AU says they are in what’s known as a “closed pod distribution”, meaning they can only give vaccines to people in their health system. With no timeline, this makes planning for opening vaccines up to a larger group very difficult.