Georgia Promises Hundreds Of Vaccine Events To Boost Uptake

BROOKHAVEN. Ga. (AP) — Georgia officials say state health workers and others will participate in more than 370 community vaccination events between now and July 4th, trying to push up the state's lagging rate of COVID-19 vaccination.

Gov Brian Kemp spoke to reporters Thursday about vaccination efforts, after touring a site at the Latin American Association in the Atlanta suburb of Brookhaven. There about 50 inoculations were administered in a continuing effort to reach Spanish-speaking Georgians, one of several groups where vaccination rates are lagging.

Kemp noted that new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations from the respiratory illness continue to fall in Georgia, saying he feels “very good about where we are.” But the pace of new shots has slowed in Georgia, with the state passing up more than 3 million doses of two-stage vaccines that had been allocated to the state before they were shipped, instead adding them to a federal pool that provides extra doses to states seeing higher demand.

The Republican governor acknowledged that “there continue to be challenges ahead” saying the Latin American Association and others are “doing literally one dose at a time now.”

“They did around 50 shots here today. But that’s 50 more than we had yesterday,” Kemp said. “And that is really the approach that it’s going to take, I think for the rest of the pandemic.”

Georgia ranks in the bottom 10, per capita, for vaccinations according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The announcement came Thursday, the day before Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Atlanta on Friday to promote vaccination.

“They are safe, and they are free,” Harris said of the vaccines Monday in Greenville, South Carolina. “They are inspected, and it is that simple.”

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock also released a public service announcement urging Georgians to get a shot.

“I am here to tell you: the best path toward helping Georgia overcome the COVID-19 pandemic is for everyone to get the vaccine as soon as you can,” Warnock said.

Only a third of Black Georgians have received at least one dose, compared to 38% of white Georgians and 72% of Asian residents, state data show. Only Hispanic residents are faring worse, with about 31% having received one dose.

Despite the low vaccination rates, Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said she remained hopeful that Georgia could reach 70% to 80% of the eligible population of people 12 and older in the coming months.

“I do believe that we will get there and I think the more people are vaccinated, the more comfort there is within the community,” Toomey said, adding family members, pastors, physicians and coworkers would be the best advocates to persuade those who are holding back.

Trying to reach Spanish speakers, both Toomey and Kemp emphasized that no insurance coverage, identification or immigration documents are needed to get vaccinated and that information will not be shared with legal authorities. Toomey said she sent a letter to all providers telling them they cannot request identification.

The state is heavily relying on nonprofit CORE, or Community Organized Relief Effort, for its outreach.

A different group of nonprofits, calling themselves ACT Against COVID, on Tuesday urged people who aren't vaccinated to undergo continued testing for the virus, saying that's key to controlling its spread.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.