New data shows huge surplus of COVID-19 vaccine south of metro Atlanta

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — New data maps show a vaccine surplus in pharmacies nationwide, with the majority of Georgia’s surplus located South of Metro Atlanta.

The data, compiled by Good RX, maps swaths of county-by-county surplus this week, located within Rite-Aid, CVS and Walmart pharmacies. The latter two are large pharmacy partners in Georgia, along with Publix, which is not represented in the data.

Most of the highlighted areas in Georgia, about 50 counties fall south of metro Atlanta.

“We do know that there’s data that supports that there’s greater hesitancy or the hesitancy is correlated with party affiliation,” said data analyst Dr. Jorge Caballero.

Caballero, a California-based anesthesiologist and data analyst noted overall political trends across the map in heavier conservative counties. But political demographics were just part of the equation.

The Coders Against COVID co-founder who provides government and research analytics pointed out in these rural areas’ transportation, the ability of working class to carve out weekday vaccination time and the digital appointment divide are at play.

“That’s a barrier,” Caballero said, noting many rural area residents’ ability to work within a digital appointment frame.

Caballero noted a uniformed federal approach to distribution, inoculation and targeted communication campaigns are still necessary. Most importantly, patients’ ability to access walk-in appointment need to become more of a norm than an exception.

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“We can walk and chew gum at the same time and this is a space where we really, really need to push ourselves to do that,” Caballero said.

The state and local leaders continue to address hesitancy and access in various ways, including more local mobile sites, mass vaccination points near public transportation and phone appointment systems that guarantee contact with a live scheduler. The focus has been on the hardest hit minority communities.

At Clayton State University, a drive-thru vaccination site hosted 500 patients. Leaders say the appointments filled up quickly and patients say it was proximity and drive-thru convenience that sealed the deal for them.

“We live close and we wouldn’t have to go far to other places, like an hour,” said 17-year old Oscar Negret, who got vaccinated there on Friday alongside his mother. “But yeah-this right here took us like five minutes.”

Negret said he and his mother would have had to travel to Macon to access available appointments they’d found in recent searches, so they did not book those slots. If it hadn’t been for the Clayton State site, he may not have received his first Pfizer dose so soon.

Terry Seriki is a student, who was able to access an appointment for her adult daughter Friday.

“My other daughter is having to get her second shot somewhere an hour from where we live,” Seriki said. “Not sure why but that’s the way it was set up with the people she got her vaccine from.”

Seriki said she was happy to help her second daughter land a closer appointment, and that support system is something she hopes families take seriously when it comes to collective responsibility in vaccine access.

“To me, at this point, you know we just all want to get vaccinated.”