Vaccine eligibility expands to residents 55 and older

Georgians ages 55 and older, judges and court staff as well as those with a variety of health issues are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccines could also potentially be available for all Georgia adults starting next month if the current number of shots that federal officials are sending weekly to the state continues to increase as it has in recent weeks, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said at a news conference.

“Provided we continue to see increasing vaccine supply, it is our intent to open up vaccination to all adults the first part of next month,” Kemp said.

Along with adults 55 years and older, vaccines became available on  March 15 to all state judges and court staff and all Georgians with health conditions including cancer, moderate-to-severe asthma, heart conditions, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, liver disease, COPD, chronic kidney disease, cerebrovascular disease and compromised immune systems.

Kemp said he is expanding eligibility to keep pace with the increasing supply of vaccines Georgia is receiving from the federal government and to avoid seeing lagging demand among currently eligible people. Georgia is currently receiving weekly shipments of 223,000 vaccine doses.

The newly eligible Georgians add to a growing list of vaccine-eligible people including school teachers and staff, health-care workers, nursing home residents and staff, first responders, those with mental and behavioral health issues, parents of children with medical conditions and people ages 65 and older.

Nearly 2.5 million vaccines have been given so far in Georgia, including to roughly two-thirds of all people 65-years and older in the state, according to Kemp’s office. Vaccination rates have climbed as the state receives more doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Georgians can pre-register for a vaccine appointment at myvaccinegeorgia.com even if they do not yet qualify under the Governor’s eligibility criteria. They will be notified once they qualify and scheduled for an appointment.

The Governor also said his administration is aiming to quickly expand eligibility further to Georgians who have been hit hard by the pandemic including restaurant, agriculture and grocery workers. How soon those groups will be able to get the vaccine depends on supplies holding steady.

Georgia has been ratcheting up to distribute vaccines since the first Pfizer and Moderna doses started arriving in mid-December, particularly through moves to open several mass vaccination sites in different regions throughout the state.

The vaccine ramp-up comes as COVID-19 positive case rates and hospitalizations continue falling after a surging outbreak that swept over the Georgia around the Winter holiday season. Hospitals have seen a fall in COVID-19 patients from around 5,700 during the Winter to 1,500 currently, Kemp said. 

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