As of Feb. 15, more than 200,000 individuals in Fulton County have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose since it was rolled out in December, according to a healthcare consultant.
“In Fulton County 207,933 vaccines have been administered, and 140,699 have received their first dose and 67,234 have gotten Dose 2,” Doug Schuster of Emergency Management Services International, an emergency management firm working with the county, said, referring to not only Fulton’s own vaccination program but also the private entities offering the vaccine, such as doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, currently the only ones on the U.S. market, require two doses. Schuster was one of several leaders to speak on the vaccination issue at the Fulton Board of Commissioners’ Feb. 17 recess meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the county’s three vaccination sites have administered 52,612 vaccines total, with 31,567 first doses given and 21,045 second doses provided as of Feb. 15.
Dr. Lynn Paxton, Fulton’s district health director, said based on information she obtained from the state, about 68,000 of the county’s estimated 130,000 residents 65 and older, which have been eligible to get the vaccine since Jan. 11, have received at least their first dose.
Following complaints from some south Fulton mayors and at least one commissioner that it was located too far north to serve the entire area, the county moved its southern vaccination site from Fulton County Executive Airport at Brown Field (formerly Charlie Brown Airport) in Atlanta to the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park Feb. 16. Paxton said the new location “worked out very well” on its first day.
“We vaccinated 500 and plan to expand capacity to 2,000 (daily),” she said, adding the county also hopes to vaccinate up to 4,000 a day at its North Point site in Alpharetta and a max of 15,000 at its Mercedes-Benz Stadium location in downtown Atlanta.
Paxton added Fulton has a new vaccine equity pilot program, in which the county is partnering with senior centers to help seniors get the vaccine.
“The seniors have been provided transport and an escort to help them, and that’s been very successful,” she said, adding so far the program has partnered with 200 senior centers and is expected to expand to 630 in the following week.
Paxton also said the county may work with some nonprofits, including houses of worship, to host temporary vaccination sites for seniors and also plans to send teams to retirement communities to vaccinate those residents.
But there have been some problems with the county’s vaccination appointment system, partly due to the high demand for the vaccine.
More than 92,000 individuals were on a waiting list Fulton set up starting Jan. 11, when seniors and first responders were added to Phase 1A, the group of Georgians that can receive the vaccine (healthcare and other front-line workers and long-term care facilities’ residents and staff were already eligible). Some residents on the wait list don’t yet qualify to get the vaccine and joined it to get updates on when they could receive it, said Sheena Haynes, a board of health spokeswoman.
The county stopped adding residents to the waiting list Feb. 9 so it could schedule appointments with the eligible individuals already on it as it and the other 158 counties in Georgia prepare to switch to the state’s own reservation system. Paxton said Fulton hopes to have the wait list cleared out by Feb. 24, the day the switch is expected to take place. Once the list is cleared and the shift is made, the county can start scheduling vaccine appointments again, said Jessica Corbitt, a Fulton spokeswoman.
However, some commissioners said they’ve received complaints from constituents who said there’s been a lack of communication from the county about when the wait-listed and other residents could nail down an appointment.
“I hope that everybody who thinks they’re on the wait list are actually communicated with,” District 1 Commissioner Liz Hausmann said.
Paxton said each individual on the wait list is being emailed updates about their future appointment.
She and other officials said they were concerned about news reports regarding a Feb. 5 memo the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department and the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness sent to the department’s employees that incorrectly stated their immediate family members were already eligible to get the vaccine.
Only firefighters are included in Phase 1A, so only family members 65 and older can get the vaccine. According to one report, the city said it was a “miscommunication” and it’s “looking into the facts surrounding the matter.”
“I know for a fact that this is happening … because I know a firefighter who witnessed this,” District 4 Commissioner Natalie Hall said.