Health experts fear slow down in vaccinations could lead to another wave of COVID-19

ATLANTA — Jeff Hightower said he researched the COVID-19 vaccines before he and his family became some of the 2.2 million fully vaccinated Georgians.

He knows getting 70-80% of Georgians to be fully vaccinated won’t be easy.

“I have a couple of my friends that as seen hesitant to get the vaccine, you know, each person has to make their own decision as to their own health,” Hightower said. “We did not want to take our chances with our health.”

Over the last month, we can see how the number of Georgians getting a vaccine is steadily dwindling.

This week, the number of vaccinations is down 20% since eligibility was expanded to include all adults. At the end of March, there was a nearly 4% weekly increase in the percentage of the population who got the first dose.

Over the past seven days, there was only a 1.4% increase in that percentage.

“When we don’t have enough people vaccinated, and we also have people that are taking unnecessary risks, right now, we do risk getting a new surge,” metro microbiologist Amber Schmidtke told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson.

While vaccinations are going down in Georgia, COVID-19 cases are on the rise. The latest White House report showed Georgia’s cases are up 18% for the week, and deaths are up 13% as well.

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“It’s going to be really important to incentivize and, you know, raise awareness of vaccination among younger adults,” Schmidtke said.

The slowdown in vaccinations isn’t only happening in Georgia. There’s concern that soon, the only people left to vaccinate across the country are the ones who are unwilling to do it.

“That could happen in as little as two weeks from now,” said Jen Kates with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Kates said a third of the people who said they wanted to “wait and see” are starting to get vaccinated. But a slower pace threatens to extend the pandemic.

“We could be stuck in more of a cycle of outbreaks. And the risk is not just that community transmission will still be there. But variants could be emerging,” Kates said.

“I think we all just have to continue this fight,” said Jonathan Marquess, who owns Woodstock Pharmacy in Woodstock.

He told Johnson that he’s doing his part to bring the vaccine to communities this week.

“We’ve got five clinics. I think three churches and two elderly facilities that that people have not been vaccinated,” Marquess said.

He told Johnson that the key to addressing skepticism is less misinformation and more of a personal touch.

“I always like to say I got mine. And all my family has got ours, and all of our staff here at the pharmacy has received theirs. And that usually makes them feel very comfortable,” Marquess said.