City and county offices throughout Dawson are receiving large volumes of calls about where and how to get the COVID-19 vaccine. With such high demand, officials urge the public to do their best to be patient until everyone who wants the vaccine can get it.
Department of Public Health spokesman Dave Palmer said their phone lines have been overwhelmed as the DPH works through transitioning its employees from focusing on COVID-19 testing to COVID-19 vaccination and hiring additional staff to keep up with the needs. According to Palmer, the number of appointments available to the public hinges on the number of staff available to administer the vaccine.
“We will add appointments as we can when we get staff in place,” Palmer said. “Public health continues to make changes to increase the number of vaccinations that we can provide.”
The City of Dawsonville has been receiving calls about the vaccine as well, according to Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason. Eason said that a big problem with the demand for the vaccine is that in the confusion of where and how to get vaccinated, many people end up making more than one appointment and not cancelling the extra ones.
“People are getting five or six appointments and only going to one and not cancelling them,” Eason said. “So what that means is that if they’ve planned for 400 appointments and only have 350 show up they’ve opened vials [of the vaccine] and it only has a few hours shelf life after you open it.”
The vaccine comes in vials of 10 doses and has a shelf life of about six hours once the vial is opened, according to Dr. Larry Anderson, chairman of the Dawson County Health Board and physician at Anderson Family Medicine. Because of this, vaccines must be given to 10 people within the same time slot, a requirement which Anderson said medical practices like his have found to be a challenge.
“The main problem is how many people can you have sitting in your office in increments of 10, six feet apart, and still bring more people in,” Anderson said.
Eason urges those frustrated or worried about receiving the vaccine to think outside of the box of only calling the health department and to consider private practices or pharmacies that may be administering the vaccine.
The Department of Public Health has a vaccine locator on its website at https://dph.georgia.gov/ .
“Look at where it’s available in your county, not just the health department: Ingles, Kroger or doctor’s offices might have it,” Eason said. “And look at how the vaccine you’ve subscribed to is gonna be distributed; whether it be a drive-through or a walk-in, and be careful you know how it’s gonna be distributed when you get there.”
According to Anderson, many medical practices including his own have been able to request and receive doses of the vaccine, and others are just waiting on it to be delivered to them.
“We’re getting more and more vaccines, we just have to put requests in for it and we don’t hear anything until the day before the shipment comes,” Anderson said. “So a lot of [medical providers] have been approved to get the vaccine, they just haven’t got it in yet.”
For older citizens who want the vaccine but don’t or can’t use the internet to schedule an appointment, Eason said to ask for help from family members who do.
“Children need to look out for their parents and they need to help them make appointments,” Eason said.
According to Palmer, the most important thing to remember is to be patient with the frontline workers and medical personnel who are working with limited numbers of the vaccine.
“It is taking a little while for the vaccine to get to providers,” Palmer said. “Residents need to be patient. Everyone who wants to get vaccinated will be.”