Southeast Georgia Health System announced Thursday that it would be giving vaccines to individuals age 65 and over, as well as police officers, firefighters and other first responders, on Monday.
A limited supply of the vaccine from drug manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer means SGHS is contacting directly eligible people.
“Due to the structured vaccine process, the health system is not able to accommodate walk-ins and vaccines are not available at physician offices,” the health system noted in a statement.
Health departments in Glynn, Camden and McIntosh counties are taking vaccination appointments from people in Phase 1A, but a deluge of calls on the first day overloaded their phone systems. Officials with the Coastal Health District asked residents to be patient while local departments iron out issues.
To make an appointment at the Glynn County Health Department, call 912-264-3961. For the McIntosh County Health Department, call 912-832-5473. The Camden County Health Department can be reached at 912-882-8515.
The finite number of vaccines has been an obstacle across the state.
Health authorities are currently in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution, which originally only included frontline healthcare workers, nursing home residents and employees of those facilities. But on Dec. 30 Gov. Brian Kemp ordered an expansion of the first phase to include all Georgia residents age 65 or older and emergency first responders.
That expansion, according to health district Director Dr. Lawton Davis, added 100,000 or more people to the list of those eligible for the vaccine.
Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require a second dose after three to four weeks for full effectiveness. That means local health departments and healthcare facilities must schedule 200,000 vaccination appointments while giving second doses to those who were already eligible, Davis said during a Thursday press conference.
From the time the vaccine was first made available in late December until Wednesday, the Coastal Health District received just over 5,000 doses to split between Glynn, Camden, McIntosh, Long, Liberty, Chatham, Bryan and Effingham counties and other healthcare providers, Davis said.
He added that it’s entirely likely the vaccination process could take longer than six months.
“We recognize that there are many people in our community who wish to receive the vaccine,” said SGHS President and CEO Michael Scherneck. “And as more supplies become available, we will work diligently to ensure that everyone who desires a vaccine will receive one.”
He said the health system is looking at ways to partner with the Georgia Department of Public Health, which doles out vaccine shipments from the manufacturers to local distributors, and the Coastal Health District to speed up the process.
As supply increases, Scherneck said SGHS will gradually start expanding the days on which it offers vaccinations and eventually take appointments from the general public.
“We want to remind everyone, including those who receive the vaccine, that it’s extremely important to continue to wear a mask, social distance and avoid large gatherings for the health and safety of all of us,” Scherneck said.