Gov. Brian Kemp toured the field hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center when it opened in the spring. (File Photo)

Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said in press release on Dec. 30 that the state will add adults aged 65 and older, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders to the current group of individuals eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Healthcare workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities are already in this highest priority group. The expanded administration of vaccine is expected to begin within the next two weeks provided there is adequate vaccine supply available.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for prioritizing vaccination. States have the flexibility to tailor these recommendations based on their specific needs and available vaccine.

“Following the expert guidance of Dr. Toomey, the CDC, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Georgia will move to expand Phase 1a vaccination criteria within the next two weeks to include the elderly, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders – provided the state continues to receive adequate vaccine supplies,” Kemp said in  a statement, “We will continue to monitor the administration efforts of our public health workers and partners in the private sector, and the supply chain of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to ensure eligible Georgians are vaccinated without delay.”

The announcement comes as local hospital intensive care units  are swamped with COVID-19 patients and the field hospital is being reopened at the Georgia World Congress Center to ease the burden. According to a report in the AJC, the ICUs at Grady Hospital, Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center, Piedmont Hospital, Northside Hospital, Emory University Hospital are all full.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force ranked Georgia 11th in the nation for new cases as of Dec. 25, up from 26 a week earlier.

Despite the surge in new cases and situation at hospitals, Kemp did not issue any new mandates related to wearing masks, limiting gatherings or closing businesses.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.