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Next group of Georgians could begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine soon
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Elizabeth Larkins, the director of critical care at Gainesville's Northeast Georgia Medical Center, looks away while receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. She was one of seven frontline health care workers to receive a dose Thursday, Dec. 17. - photo by Nick Watson

People 65 and older, along with first responders, will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine within the next two weeks if the state gets enough doses, according to state officials.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, announced plans Wednesday, Dec. 30 to add adults 65 and older, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders to the highest-priority group. Health care workers and long-term care facility residents are already eligible.

The additional populations could be able to get the vaccine within the next two weeks. Kemp said Thursday, Dec. 31 that Georgia had received 120,000 doses this week but state officials did not know what to expect the following week.

Toomey said Thursday that in metro Atlanta, there are “hundreds” of health care workers on waiting lists for a COVID-19 vaccine, but in some areas of rural Georgia, extra doses are sitting unused. About 80% of the population will need to be vaccinated for “herd immunity,” or when enough people are immune to make community spread unlikely.

“At a time we’re seeing the highest community spread we’ve ever had during this pandemic, I think it’s more important to recognize that this (vaccine) is life-saving and can stop the pandemic and get back to normal life,” Toomey said.

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