Gov. Brian Kemp and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey held a press briefing Jan. 12 at the State Capitol to address controversy surrounding the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Kemp said local health departments and healthcare providers had been inundated with requests for the vaccine leading to unanswered phones and crashing websites. Toomey said a glitch in data sharing between the state and CDC and providers not entering vaccine data has meant an under-reporting of exactly how many people are getting inoculated.
Kemp said over the last week that 102,183 doses of the vaccine had been administered, which was a 97% increase over the week before. He said CVS and Walgreens were on track to have all nursing home residents and staff inoculated by the end of the month and the state was prepared to step in and assist if necessary.
The governor said there are 1.3 million seniors and 536,000 healthcare workers in the state who need to be vaccinated. The state is being allocated 120,000 doses per week, 40,000 of which are withheld and sent to CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate nursing home residents and staff.
“I would prefer an ample supply and vaccinate everyone immediately, but that is not possible,” Kemp said.
Kemp also said he’d received reports of some medical facilities holding on to doses and said the state would seize them. “I’ll fire up my pick up truck and do it myself,” Kemp said.
He asked the public to be patient and warned there would be waiting, obstacles and frustration as the vaccine rollout continues. “We are working around the clock to get vaccines in arms as quickly as safely as we can,” he said.
Toomey said four mass vaccination efforts held last weekend for metro healthcare workers saw 10,000 individuals get inoculated
“These large scale events will be important to reach the general public,” Toomey said. “There will be regional mass vaccination sites with a centralized system for setting appointments to take strain off local health departments.”
She also noted that regional and retail pharmacies will eventually be added to the centralized system to get the vaccine.
The state set a grim new record on Tuesday as 145 COVID-19 related deaths were reported within the last 24 hours.
Kemp also addressed security at the State Capitol in Downtown Atlanta in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by extremist supporters of President Donald Trump. He described the assault as “disgraceful and un-American” and said the Department of Public Safety, Georgia State Patrol and National Guard were prepared to take action.
The FBI has warned states that extremists have been coordinating online to attack state capitols and the U.S. Capitol during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“We welcome peaceful protest and for residents to exercise their first amendment rights, but law breaking like we saw last week will not be tolerated. Period.” Kemp said.
Kemp said state officials were receiving intelligence briefings from the FBI, and the threat level to the State Capitol appeared low, “but we are taking nothing for granted.”