Georgia’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan and Timeline

We have the breakdown of who can receive COVID-19 vaccines and when, where and why. Here are the resources you need to navigate the vaccine rollout.

Vaccine 2

Georgia is one of nine states with the lowest vaccination rates following the rollout of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this month. The Georgia Department of Public Health has released a 66-page plan for providers and vaccine recipients alike, which details who can get the vaccine at what phase and where.

Notably missing from the plan is a timeline. Georgia is currently in phase 1A+, which includes healthcare workers (physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians, EMS personnel, environmental services, etc.), residents and staff of long-term care facilities and, as of January 11, adults aged 65 and older, law enforcement, firefighters and first responders. The vaccine will become available to the next group once the supply is sufficient for the demand. 

The Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices (ACIP) has released their allocation recommendations to the CDC, which provides guidance for federal, state, and local jurisdictions while vaccine supply is limited. The report states that “ACIP considered scientific evidence regarding COVID-19 epidemiology, ethical principles, and vaccination program implementation considerations. ACIP’s recommendations for COVID-19 vaccine allocation are interim and might be updated based on changes in conditions of FDA Emergency Use Authorization, FDA authorization for new COVID-19 vaccines, changes in vaccine supply, or changes in COVID-19 epidemiology.” This allocation plan is currently advising Governor Kemp, commissioner of Georgia Department of Public Health Dr. Kathleen Toomey, and the CDC. As it is subject to change pending vaccine production, availability and shipment, there is no concrete timeline or estimate as to when each vaccination phase will roll out.

Dawn Baker of WTOC-TV participated in the the Moderna vaccine clinical trial, administered and overseen by Dr. Bradley, Savannah physician and member of the Meridian Clinical Research team for over 10 years. Savannah had a heavy hand in running clinical trials for the vaccine, now available to phase 1A+ classified Georgians.

The remaining phase 1 rollout includes essential workers in critical sectors as well as immune-compromised citizens 16-64 years of age. Below is the Georgia Department of Public Health graphic for phase 1 distribution.

Phase two will include nonclinical public health, hospital and long-term care facility workers and their family members, individuals in homeless shelters, individuals in congregate settings (dorms, group homes), staff and individuals in jails, prisons, detention centers, and adults aged 31-64. Phase three will include, well, everyone else in the general population (which excludes children under 16 until the vaccine is approved for pediatric use).

Those who are eligible in the first phase will be notified and informed of where to receive the vaccine. There is also a vaccine locator tool which identifies approved vaccination sites. As of January 12, vaccination appointment scheduling is paused in Chatham County due to an overwhelming demand. Eligible persons can request to be notified once scheduling resumes. Other questions regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine (excluding scheduling inquiries) can be directed to the GA COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 888-357-0169.

Vaccines are becoming available as manufacturers can produce it. The public can see which providers requested what doses and how many doses have been granted to each provider in GA on the “Vaccine Orders List” on this page. The GA Department of Public Health vaccine status dashboard is constantly updated and provides a snapshot of the number of providers, number of vaccinates allocated versus the number currently shipped, and the number of vaccines administered.

Vaccine Dashboard

Courtesy of Georgia Department of Public Health. Snapshot at 9:30 a.m. January 12, 2021.

When compared to other states, Georgia (along with nine other states, mainly in the South and West) is trailing the rest of the country in vaccination initiation rate. Vaccination initiation is the rate at which people are receiving the first dose (of two does) of the vaccine which—should be noted—is different than the total number of vaccines administered. As of Wednesday morning, January 12, Georgia’s vaccination initiation rate sits at 1,607 first-dose vaccinations per 100,000 people. South Dakota leads with a rate of 5,505 first-dose vaccinations per 100,000 people and Texas leads with the most total number of people initiating the vaccination process at 911,461 people with the first dose. View the interactive map here.

The CDC, ACIP and committees such as Operation Warp Speed are federal entities advising states on recommended vaccination distribution plans. NPR reported that states’ vaccine allocation is based on population—a per capita model for those over the age of 18 for the first 6.4 million doses available. In other words, states receive doses based on sheer population rather than the number of people classified as phase one priority. This could present an issue for states that have a higher rate of healthcare professionals compared to other states. 

Distribution plans vary by state based on the degree to which each state follows proposed federal guidelines. Each state reserves the right to modify their distribution strategies, as each state’s circumstance may differ. Some reports suggest that blue states are more likely to independently analyze COVID-19 data to tailor their plans as a result of mistrust in the federal government, whereas states that maintained a close relationship with the Trump administration, such as Georgia, would follow the proposed federal plans more closely.

While vaccines are being administered and distribution plans have been drafted, there are still a few unknowns, such as manufacturing and distribution timetables. Unfortunately, this information is not publicly available either through the manufacturers or the federal government.

Find more information about the vaccines themselves, the distribution plans, vaccination locations and current vaccination data at the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.