Chatham Co. health leaders prepare for vaccine eligibility expansion

Chatham Co. health leaders prepare for vaccine eligibility expansion

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - All Georgians 16 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Thursday.

While providers have been bombarded with demand before, they say this time they are not expecting that.

Coastal Health District Director Dr. Lawton Davis said he wishes they saw everyone rushing to sign up, but they did not see that with the last few expansion groups. But he says this new tier of younger adults is a critical one.

“If the younger population would take the vaccine, I definitely think that would help because they are the group that is the most socially active you know out and about, seeing their friends and also seeing their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. So, I think the potential is there for it to be a big help,” Dr. Davis said.

While health leaders say this expansion is great and comes at the right time, the big question is if people will sign up to be vaccinated. Dr. Davis says that was not the case locally in the education and healthcare community for the younger adult population.

“The uptake was not great. It’s anywhere from 35% to 55% depending on which little group you’re looking at so honestly basically you know this is being opened up to the younger healthy adult population and so do I think that 95 percent of that population is going to want to be vaccinated unfortunately no,” Dr. Davis said.

He said they have open appointments all over the Coastal Health District, so the expansion will ensure they can keep serving those who want to be protected against the virus.

Dr. Stephen Thacker, at Memorial Health, says even those who have had COVID should sign up to be vaccinated.

“One, we don’t really know how long your protective antibody response from natural infection lasts, we don’t know that yet, we do have information about how long your protective antibody response lasts with the vaccine, so we’ve got that guarantee. There is also concern that folks that were infected early in the COVID pandemic with what we call wild type those antibodies that you’re making may not protect you against some of these circulating strains at all. And so, we know we have evidence of about the efficacy of these vaccines against some of these newer strains that are circulating so that provides you added benefit against what we are dealing with right now,” Dr. Thacker said.

Officials say these vaccines are critical as we talk about the variants - several of them found in the Peach State.

They say these vaccines are safe and effective and that is proven as millions in the US have been vaccinated already. They urge you to seek an appointment and don’t let your guard down as we still have a ways to go before we reach herd immunity.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine approved for 16 and 17-year-olds. According to the Coastal Health District, schedule an appointment at the Chatham County Health Department, Glynn County Health Department, CVS or Walgreens or at one of the GEMA mass vaccination sites to ensure Pfizer vaccine is available.

According to an official with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, all 16 and 17-year-olds must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. They cannot drive themselves and get vaccinated alone.

Pre-registration for appointments at the Chatham County mass vaccination site is now available at myvaccinegeorgia.com for those 16 years and older. Confirmation emails will be sent on Thursday once this group becomes eligible to receive the vaccine.

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