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What’s the big holdup in COVID-19 vaccinations here?

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 6:26 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The American Hospital Association says if 75 percent of the U.S. population is to be vaccinated by the end of summer, 1.8 million need to be vaccinated per day every day.

But hospitals cannot keep up with that right now for several reasons.

For perspective, the CDC says after a little more than a month, 9 million people have been vaccinated in the U.S. That’s not even half a million vaccines a day.

Meanwhile, healthcare providers on both sides of the river are facing new challenges on the long road back to normal.

“I think everyone is clear that the current pace is not acceptable. There are locations throughout the country that are doing better than others,” said Dr. Phillp Coule, Augusta University Health’s chief medical officer.

Both Georgia and South Carolina are in Phase 1A of COVID-19 vaccinations, but obstacles like supply, staffing, logistics, and cost are slowing down the pace.

“It takes us longer to register a person to be vaccinated than it does to actually vaccinate,” Coule said.

Supply has also been an issue. Hospitals like AU have vaccinated South Carolina residents too, but the doses only come from Georgia.

“Cities like Augusta, that are directly on a border where we don’t get any allocation from South Carolina, but yet we can vaccinate South Carolina citizens,” Coule explained.

The ideal vaccination rate is about 1.4 million doses a day. Right now, we’re at about 700,000, and both states are going at a slower pace than many.

So, what’s the pace we need to get back to normal by fall? We did the math based on state population:

  • South Carolina needs to give about 23,000 doses a day. Right now, they’re at about 15,000, according to state lawmakers.
  • Georgia would need to give about 44,000 a day.

Coule says when supply ramps up, and pharmacies and doctors’ offices will start vaccinating too, we will start to see a dent vaccine efforts.

“I think it’s still reasonable to believe that by late summer, early fall and things are going to start getting back to normal,” Coule said.

Just Tuesday, AU Health got approval to begin vaccinating the public within the phased guidelines. They’ll start that as soon as the next shipment comes in.

Another hold up is that Georgia and South Carolina require distributors to follow the phases as a state. Some other states follow a phased approach by county, which allows smaller counties to complete phases quicker than larger ones.

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