South Georgia signs up thousands for vaccine

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VALDOSTA — Efforts to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to the public are being met with heavy demand, South Georgia health officials said.

South Georgia Medical Center is providing vaccinations in a drive-through clinic, said Erika J. Bennett, hospital spokeswoman.

“We gave 174 vaccinations Wednesday, the first day we were fully open,” she said. Near the end of the week, the hospital administered 272 vaccines as workers fine-tuned operations. The plan is to reach 300 jabs a day, she said.

The hospital received a shipment of the Moderna vaccine Wednesday and was expecting to receive the Pfizer vaccine by the end of the week.

Under state plans, vaccinations are only being given out right now to health workers, first responders, residents and staff of care facilities and adults 65 or older and their caregivers. Altogether, SGMC has vaccinated 1,500 employees, Bennett said.

Appointments have to be made to receive the vaccine. MyChart, SGMC’s smartphone app allowing users to access their medical records, showed the next two weeks booked solid for the hospital’s COVID-19.

Bennett said people wishing to get a shot earlier should check back with the app frequently, as spots can open up as people cancel or move their appointments.

The South Health District plans to open a drive-through vaccination clinic Monday, Jan. 18, Kristin Patten, spokeswoman for the district, said in a statement.

“We have over 12,000 appointments scheduled so far for vaccination through public health,” she said. 

People register through a website to get a call back from a district worker to set up the vaccination.

The staff is working “nights, weekends and holidays” to call everyone registered in the district’s 10-county area back, Patten said.

The district hopes to vaccinate 300 people a day in Lowndes County, she said, with hopes to increase that number.

“The number that can be vaccinated in our other nine counties ranges based on how many nurses are on each staff, but can be anywhere from 20-40 a day in smaller counties like Echols and Lanier to 70-plus in larger counties like Tift or Ben Hill,” Patten said.

People wishing more information on the vaccinations can call SGMC’s COVID-19 hotline (229) 433-1068. Bennett said the hospital has three phone lines running for the hotline, but demand has been heavy.

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.

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