If you are a health worker in Georgia, you may have already received your vaccine.
If you’re someone else, chances are you’ve been looking for a shortcut.
“Our hospital has done a great job getting doctors and staff vaccinated,” said Dr. Adam Friedlander, an Atlanta-based emergency physician at a suburban hospital, who received his second dose on Jan.6. for really all the doctors I know. But the crazy thing is that every non-doctor I know who has been vaccinated has done so through a backdoor.
“These are all relationship stories, like ‘my neighbor is a nurse’ or ‘I took my grandmother, and they gave her one too’ or ‘I just went to the pharmacy every day for a week, and they gave us one, ”Friedlander said. “But I don’t know a single person who was able to get it through official channels. The appointments are completely filled. “
Friedlander’s experience reflects a grim reality for his condition: the official launch this week of COVID-19 vaccine doses for seniors and first responders in Georgia – it was previously available to nursing home residents and nursing homes. frontline health workers – hit a myriad of obstacles, frustration among civilians and finger-pointing at county, state and federal levels.
While this echoes a random and error-prone nationwide rollout, conversations with residents, doctors, and health officials have suggested the state is underestimating appetite for doses – and continues to catch up.
“I don’t think we were prepared for the number of people who really wanted the vaccine. It’s a better problem than we imagined, ”said Dr Theresa Jacobs, clinical manager for the Georgia Primary Care Association. “We originally thought with some hesitation about vaccines that we weren’t going to have anyone who would want the vaccines, but we have people calling all over the state of Georgia who even travel to Florida. to get vaccinated. It’s a good problem to have, and I think we’ll overcome it.
“We have more than enough patients who want it,” Jacobs said. “But we just don’t have enough providers to administer the vaccine. There have been misunderstandings about how providers can deliver vaccines. “
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website showed Georgia ranked second in the country in terms of residents per 100,000 people who received a first dose, a one-step improvement from its last two days. earlier, amid notoriously low COVID vaccination rates across the country.
Gov. Brian Kemp asserted that there is a “significant” problem of “underreporting” the number of vaccinations that have actually been performed among the public. But the federal chart estimated that the state provided the first doses to 1,872 people per 100,000 population. Only Alabama had a lower rate Wednesday night.
Duane Kavka, executive director of the Georgia Primary Care Association, said details show that about 50 percent of the 35 state-federally qualified health centers – a reimbursement designation for community clinics – have received the vaccine. COVID-19 and began the process of vaccinating their staff, then the population of citizens over 65 years of age.
Kavka called the response “overwhelming,” saying it was invading county systems. Yet at present, sites receiving the vaccine often do not receive the amount they ordered, he added – in some cases a third or less than what they ordered.
Of course, there are many who have not yet received the vaccine at all.
For some of them, Kavka said, they “received their state approval emails. [public health department] but still do not have the required PIN on the COVID-19 vaccine order form. “
“No PIN code – no command,” Kavka said. “We hope that these will have vaccines in the next 7 to 10 days.”
Nancy Nydam, director of communications for the state’s public health department, said the PIN issue was resolved by the end of the day on Wednesday.
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“Some health districts have scheduled appointments until February, others until March,” Nydam added. “To ensure an adequate supply of vaccines, including second doses, some districts have temporarily suspended appointment scheduling.”
Mallory Blount, press secretary to Governor Brian Kemp, said her boss had “made it clear that he wants every Georgian to have the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.” She added that, even in the context of Jacobs’ assertion about the overwhelming response from the population, the state did not “have a role to play in deciding how many vaccines we receive,” reckoning. carried out by the federal government on a population basis.
“Unfortunately, there has been severe underreporting by some providers regarding the amount of vaccine they are giving,” Blount added in his statement to The Daily Beast. “Yesterday, the number of vaccines administered in Georgia increased by 102,183 from last week, an increase of 97%, indicating significant progress in dealing with this backlog.”
“Over the past week, we have met or exceeded this daily target,” Blount continued, saying “Georgia was on par with neighboring states,” like the Carolinas.
But even though the state’s numbers were underreported and its actual numbers “on par” with those of its neighbors, the information was cold comfort to residents who tried and failed to secure appointments.
Although Janice Morris, 66, a resident of Whitesburg, Ga., Was able to secure a place through her hospital network because she was recently a patient, her husband Joe, 70, does not appear to have such options in her life. the surrounding counties.
“I think on my last shift three quarters of the people I saw were cases of COVID.“
– Dr Adam Friedlander
Morris told the Daily Beast that she tried online, then over the phone, and couldn’t get her husband to date fast enough before the slots filled up.
“I’m worried because he’s 70,” Morris said. “The helpline never responds, can never go through other public vaccination sites.”
“It’s extremely frustrating,” she added.
It’s a complex and multifactorial problem that starts at the top, said Dr. Jennifer Horney, founding director and professor of the Epidemiology program at the University of Delaware.
“The main challenge is logistics, and these are exacerbated by the cold chain needed to preserve the vaccine and the two-dose regimen schedule,” Horney told The Daily Beast. “Public health and healthcare workers are overwhelmed to respond to a record number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths every day amid the vaccine rollout.”
Much has been said about the debate over who gets protection first – by age, risk factor, and other metrics – and despite federal guidelines, states have the ability to make their own decisions about which Americans should continue. to be at major risk of catching the virus.
“While it is important to prioritize the groups most at risk, limiting the vaccine initially to the same groups that are responsible for responding to the outbreak has also slowed the roll-out,” she added.
Friedlander, who sits on the Medicare Protective Committee – a self-proclaimed public advocacy and lobbying group that works “to persuade elected officials to support health care for all Americans” – perhaps believes it is no surprise that the blame more clearly lies with the Trump administration.
“This is a very simple case where the Trump administration is doing what it does best – not being prepared and throwing the problem over to someone else,” he said. “They pushed him to underfunded and underfunded state and local health departments. It wasn’t a calculated mistake that fewer people would want the vaccine, it was that the federal government did not put significant planning or resources into making mass immunization a reality.
Dr Anurag Sahu, a cardiologist at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, agreed the deployment in the state had been “hit or miss,” telling the Daily Beast he received his first vaccine last Friday.
“But I don’t think a state does it well,” he added. “It falls to the federal leadership, when every state is in bad shape.”
Nonetheless, Jacobs was optimistic that things will change quickly in the coming weeks.
“With more providers there will be more opportunities, as opposed to public health-only websites, they will be able to access pharmacy websites and private physicians,” Jacobs said. “Georgia will receive millions of additional dollars to help with the deployment, which means there will be more resources.”
For Friedlander, the need is more pressing than ever.
“I think during my last shift, three quarters of the people I saw were cases of COVID, whereas a month before I would have said it was half of that”, a- he declared. “There are days when I feel like I can’t see anything else.”
At this point, Sahu agreed, noting that the state’s cases had recently increased by 50 percent in just two weeks.
“One in 1,000 Georgia residents has died from COVID,” he said. “It’s absolutely horrible.”
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