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Local hospitals test-run small clinics for a wider vaccine rollout

Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 6:20 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Vaccine rollout across the two-state is among the slowest in the nation.

The CDC’s new vaccine tracker tool shows Georgia has administered less than half of its available vaccines. South Carolina is also sitting around that 50 percent mark.

Locally, our hospitals are starting to slowly open up vaccinations to the public, even though people over the age of 65 have been technically allowed to get the vaccine since Jan. 11.

The second day of University Hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic is now over, but it served about 3,000 of their most vulnerable primary care patients over the age of 65.

It’s the first step in what they hope will be a more widespread rollout.

And it came as a sign of relief for 76-year-old Stephen Brown when after trying unsuccessfully to schedule his own vaccine, his primary care physician invited him to a clinic.

“We had trouble getting online. My wife tried numerous times to get it at Publix, and they were always full,” Brown explained.

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Georgia and South Carolina have been allowed to vaccinate people over the age of 65 for nearly two weeks, but due to a short supply, the local rollout has been limited to invite-only type events.

“We can request 5000 a day. That is the allotment that we’re allowed to, but that’s not what we’re receiving. We’re probably receiving about 50 percent of that,” Reyne Gallup, chief operating officer (COO) with University Healthcare System, said.

Meanwhile, Augusta University held its first vaccine clinic for 100 people over age 65. They call it a test run for larger clinics in the future and for their brand-new online scheduling system.

At First Baptist Church, another test run was underway for 3,000 of University Hospital’s primary care patients.

The long-awaited opening of these clinics offers more than just virus protection. They are offering peace of mind.

“I’ll be glad when the second one’s done. I already have an appointment for it, which I’m happy about,” Brown said.

COO Gallup says the problem isn’t preparation, but rather it’s not knowing when the next big shipment will come.

“It’s hard to plan. It is the biggest challenge for us. It’s hard to plan when we know we can do more,” Gallup said.

Until then, she says they plan to have more events serving small portions of the most vulnerable population.

“It might be, we’ll contact churches and ask them to get 100 people of their highest risk over 65. So we’re going to continue to serve our community any way we can to get shots in arms,” Gallup said.

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