FAQ: Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia

LINK: Here’s where you can get COVID-19 vaccines in metro Atlanta

Channel 2 Action News is committed to covering the distribution of the COVID-19 and getting you the answers you need about the vaccine and the supply.

How will vaccines be distributed in Georgia? Here’s what we know so far:

The Georgia Department of Health has released a lengthy plan for how the state will distribute vaccines in the coming months.

The nearly 60-page draft outlines several phases of vaccine distribution based on when supply becomes available.

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The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine in mid-December and the Moderna vaccine not long after.

“DPH is working to ensure Georgia is prepared and ready to actively respond once vaccines become available,” officials said. “This statewide Mass Vaccination Distribution and Administration Plan will be used as a state protocol for the distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to public health districts and other enrolled COVID-19 pandemic vaccine providers.”

Who will get the vaccine first?

Health officials say distribution of the vaccine will be phased and will be available for critical populations first. Those populations will be identified by data gathered by national, state and local resources and compiled into a “critical populations database.”

The vaccine will be distributed in three phases, listed below. As of January 4, we are in Phase 1.

Phase 1: Limited vaccine availability

Phase 1A:

Phase 1-A will include paid and unpaid persons serving in a healthcare setting who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. Hospital staff, public health clinical staff, EMS, and other first responders, long term care facility (LTCF) staff, and urgent care facility staff are examples of people who will be included in this phase.

Additional examples include:

  • Staff in clinical settings (e.g., physicians, nurses, pharmacists, EMS, laboratory staff, environmental services, LTCF staff etc.)
  • LTCF Residents

Phase 1-B:

Phase 1-B will include other essential workers and people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

Examples of people that will be included in this Phase are listed below:

  • Police and fire personnel not covered under Phase 1-A
  • Critical workforce employees (e.g., pharmacy staff, educational faculty and staff, correctional facility staff, court employees, food processors, grocery store workers, transportation staff, nuclear power plant employees, air traffic controllers, etc.)
  • All adults 75 and older and those 65 and older with significant comorbidities and their caregivers

Phase 1-C:

Phase 1-C will include people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness, not vaccinated during Phase 1-A or Phase 1-B.

Examples of this population include:

  • Other essential workers
  • Adults below age 65 with significant comorbidities

Phase 2: Increased vaccine availability

  • Nonclinical public health, hospital and long-term care facility workers and their family members
  • Individuals in homeless shelters
  • Individuals in congregate settings (dorms, group homes)
  • Staff and individuals in jails, prisons, detention centers
  • Adults aged 31-64

Phase 3: Vaccine widely available

  • The general population and children, once the vaccine is approved for pediatric use

How will I know if I am eligible for the vaccine?

Those who will be vaccinated in the first phase will be notified where to receive the vaccine. These sites will likely be at or near work and care sites.

How will the GDPH decide where in the state the vaccine will go and when?

The state will decide the amount of vaccines given to each of the state’s 18 public health districts based on population density, level of disease and numbers of priority populations.

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How many vaccines have already been distributed?

You can track the total number of vaccines administered in Georgia on the DPH website.

Who will give out the first vaccines?

Vaccines will be shipped directly to providers who have enrolled to be COVID-19 vaccine providers. Those providers will include doctors, pharmacists, nurses, physician assistants, medical students, certified EMTs, paramedics and cardiac technicians.

Will I be able to go to my local pharmacy to get a vaccine?

“Participation by pharmacy partners will be a key component during the second phase of vaccine distribution.”

Where else can I get the vaccine?

Through your doctor or through satellite, temporary or off-site clinics, much like COVID-19 testing is done.

Are there side effects?

Side effects are mild, temporary, and normal signs that your body is building protection. You may experience pain and swelling in the arm of the injection. Throughout the rest of your body, you may experience fever, chills, tiredness, and headaches.

Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?

There is no live COVID-19 virus in the vaccine. The vaccine imitates the infection so that our bodies create antibody defenses to fight off COVID-19.

Is the vaccine effective? How was it created so quickly?

Scientists had a significant head start developing the COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 is very similar to other viruses, which already have vaccines.

Testing was thorough and successful. More than 70,000 people participated in clinical trials for the two vaccines to see if they are safe and effective. To date, the vaccines are nearly 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.

What will the vaccine cost?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine will be free. Vaccine providers may be able to charge administration fees for giving the shot but they will be billed to insurance with no out-of pocket cost to the patient.

Will I have to take one vaccine dose or two?

It depends on the vaccine. They may be available as both a single-dose and a two-dose series.

If I had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to be vaccinated?

It is recommended individuals who have had and recovered from COVID-19 also should be vaccinated.

Do I still need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others once I receive 2 doses of vaccine?

It’s important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. It will take time after the vaccination for your body to respond and make enough antibodies to protect you. This could take up to one to two weeks after your last dose.

Current information suggests that it is possible that someone who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 may still have a mild or asymptomatic infection or spread the virus to others. So it is important to continue taking precautions. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and wash your hands often.

What about vaccinations for my kids?

Information about the pediatric vaccine has not been made available yet.

Can your employer force you to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

The simple answer is yes because Georgia is an at-will employment state.

“Yeah, because you work at the pleasure of your employer,” Channel 2 Consumer Advisor Clark Howard said. “And if they’re trying to create a safe work environment, they have a legal right to mandate that you get the vaccine. And if you don’t, they can give you the heave-ho.”

However, there are exceptions.

“The only one is you can petition if you have a medical reason that makes it unsafe for you to get the vaccine,” Howard said.

Read more here.

CDC Resources: