Fulton County shifting efforts to bring COVID-19 vaccines to neighborhoods where people are hesitant

ATLANTA — New numbers from the state on the COVID-19 vaccine show a decline in the daily vaccination rate in Georgia over the course of this month.

Only a third of state residents have been vaccinated.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray spoke to Fulton County’s health director on Wednesday about vaccine hesitancy and how the department is shifting efforts to reach people where they live.

One of Fulton County’s mobile COVID-19 vaccinations units set up shop Wednesday at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Gray found that there were plenty of vaccine doses available but not very many takers.

“If we’re going to reach herd immunity, we need to get many more people vaccinated than we currently are,” said Fulton County health director Lynn Paxton.

Paxton said that’s why the county is shifting the focus of its vaccination efforts.

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“I would say that now we’re still at the tail end of getting all the people desperate to get a vaccine and we are moving now into the people who are a little vaccine hesitant,” Paxton said.

The highly successful mass vaccination site at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is now open at all times to walk-ups, but Paxton said they expect to shut down the site at some point in June.

The state will also close its mass vaccination sites in late May.

To reach more vaccination hesitant populations, Fulton County is emphasizing its eight mobile units, which will be heading to churches, neighborhoods and even MARTA stations.

“We are relying more and more on getting out to the people in terms of we have mobile units,” Paxton said.

Ebenezer member Jeanelle Bediakl got vaccinated at the mobile site outside the church on Wednesday.

“I trust Ebenezer, so was glad to come down and do it,” Bediakl said.

She told Gray that the health department coming to her church made a difference.

“Coming from an African American church, knowing that they wouldn’t bring this to the community if they thought it was detrimental to us, so absolutely that fosters confidence,” Bediakl said.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will stay open through June 15 as a mass vaccination site before closing down.

Other Fulton County sites will soon be open to walk-ups as well.

The mobile unit that was at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Wednesday will head to Zion Hill Baptist Church on Thursday, and then back to Ebenezer on Friday.

Walk-ups are welcome at those sites.