CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - UPDATE: Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Tuesday that all Georgia residents 16 years and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine beginning Thursday, March 25. Pre-registration for appointments is available now at myvaccinegeorgia.com for those 16 years and older, but confirmation emails will be sent on Thursday.
Tuesday marks the fifth day of operation at the mass vaccination site organized by GEMA at the Gulfstream site. Appointments are no longer required, and leaders say they have seen a large increase in use of the site.
The site is equipped to administer up to 1,100 shots per day, and they are prepared to increase that number to 2,000 doses if demand requires it.
“We’ve actually increased our capacity as far as people on site. That number is continually rising so we are trying to increase that capacity to help out folks that are showing up,” said Collin Hopf, the site manager at the mass vaccination site.
In the first two hours on Tuesday clinicians vaccinated about 250 people — more than the total vaccinated on Wednesday last week, the first day of operation. By the end of the day, clinicians had administered 1,145 doses to Georgia residents, making it the first day the site hit and exceeded its estimated daily capacity of 1,100 doses.
Opening up the site to those without appointments brought more people out, like Tamika Lonon, a local salon owner in Savannah.
“It was just great to be able to come through, not have to do anything, stay in my car. It was a nice experience,” she said.
She says the process didn’t take too long and she was grateful for the chance to be vaccinated.
“I have had COVID already. It meant a lot. I have already experienced it so I didn’t want to be able to get it again,” Lonon said.
While appointments aren’t required, GEMA leaders say registering at myvaccinegeorgia.com can get you through the process faster. It will also reserve a dose for you on the day of your appointment, which will be helpful once vaccine eligibility opens up to Georgians who are 16 and older on Thursday.
“It will go through and ask the questions of and let in and keep out those that can and cannot qualify for that so we’re doing a lot of that on our front end and then they will come through and again we can do that here on site as well too,” said Hopf.
Chatham County’s mass vaccination site is the only one in the state of Georgia that doesn’t require appointments. It’s proven effective in getting people vaccinated, but it does slow down the process. Leaders say the time it takes for someone to get through the site has increased, but they are adjusting as they go.
“It has increased maybe just a little bit on the front end with the increased capacity and people showing up, but as far as getting registered we’ve thrown more guardsmen at that so we’ve increased our capacity there. Additional talking point is we have people on the backend that can register for your second appointment so registering for that second appointment will give you a hard date to come back and get that shot and it will also speed it up the next time,” said Hopf.
WTOC did ask Hopf if they are prepared to handle increased volume should Gov. Brian Kemp open eligibility to additional people. He said they are and can bring in additional people if needed.
The mass vaccination site is open Tuesday to Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Organizers recommend that you take Exit 104 off of Interstate 95 to get to the site.
Blair Caldwell and Cyreia Sandlin reported from the Chatham County mass vaccination site. Laura Garrison assisted with data visualization.