Like a lot of south Fulton County leaders, City of South Fulton Mayor William “Bill” Edwards is upset with the fact that the county’s only south Fulton COVID-19 vaccination site is north of Interstate 20, not close enough for that entire area.
“I’m thoroughly sick of the lack of vaccinations in our community,” he said, referring to the site at Fulton County Executive Airport at Brown Field (formerly Charlie Brown Airport), one of three county vaccination locations. “People are talking about the lack of vaccinations with people of Black and brown color. We are thoroughly overwhelmed where we are.”
Edwards was one of several Fulton mayors who talked about the county’s vaccination distribution problems at the Fulton Board of Commissioners’ Feb. 5 special called mayors’ meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting Jan. 11, Gov. Brian Kemp expanded Phase 1A, the group of Georgians who could receive the vaccine to include first responders and residents 65 and older, in addition to the healthcare and other front-line workers and long-term care facilities’ residents and staff already eligible. Since then, Fulton and other counties have been flooded with requests from seniors to get it.
At the board’s Feb. 3 regular meeting, Doug Schuster of Emergency Management Services International, an emergency management firm working with the county, said 30,044 doses already administered and a waiting list of 92,502 individuals through Feb. 1.
At the mayors’ meeting, he said there are about 130,000 residents 65 and older in Fulton and only about 22,000 have received at least their first of two vaccination doses so far. Schuster added that the vaccine distribution is 50% for Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta 30% for the North Point location in Alpharetta 30% and 20% for the airport one.
Several south Fulton mayors and District 6 Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman said they’ve been inundated with calls and emails from seniors, including those who don’t know how to use a computer or have one and those without internet access, asking how and where they can get vaccinated.
Residents can sign up for vaccinations by phone, Fulton COO Anna Roach said. However, she added, “The fact that our enrollment system was mostly electronic, that became a barrier to vaccine access for those who don’t have access to a computer or the internet. That especially includes senior citizens.”
College Park Mayor Bianca Motley Broom suggested the county use her city’s Georgia International Convention Center as a vaccination site.
Dr. Lynn Paxton, Fulton’s district health director, said the county’s board of health, starting the week of Feb. 15, will be sending teams to south Fulton senior residential towers and also plans to send mobile units to other areas there to vaccinate seniors.
“We are working with them to determine which ones can be vaccination sites. We will send mobile units to those sites,” she said.
“What’s keeping us from opening larger sites is simply availability of vaccines. We push the vaccines out and we don’t horde them, but we only get a one-week supply at a time. We’re not letting any vaccines go to waste or holding them.”
Adbur-Rahman said the lack of a vaccination site south of I-20 could be viewed as racist since most of south Fulton’s residents are minorities.
“We have to find a solution. … This will be another situation where Fulton county is on the wrong side of history,” she said.
North Fulton’s mayors speaking at that meeting, some of whom mentioned their own problems with the vaccination rollout in their cities, said they feel for their south Fulton colleagues.
“My heart bleeds for Mayor Edwards and the other mayors on the south side,” Alpharetta Mayor Jim Gilvin said. “I truly feel the pain for what they must be hearing from their residents. … This is not a north-south issue. We’re all in this together.”