All Georgians 16+ eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines starting Thursday

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp announced Tuesday that all Georgians 16 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting this week.

The eligibility will open up to any adult who wants the vaccine starting on Thursday.

[SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Vaccine in Georgia]

After his major announcement, the governor spoke exclusively with Channel 2 anchors Jovita Moore and Jorge Estevez on Channel 2 Action News at 5 p.m.

“We’re seeing a lot of demand still in metro Atlanta, but we have a lot of resources heading here. We’re starting to see senior populations -- we’ve been focused on them -- level out,” Kemp said. “We have had a decrease of demand south of the gnat line, the Augusta-Macon-Columbus area. We don’t want any doses sitting in freezers anywhere. So we’re opening it up on Thursday.”

[Q&A: How can I book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in Georgia? Which shots are available?]

The state received 450,000 vaccines, including both first and second doses, this week and expects an increase in Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson next week.

Kemp said that Georgia has been shipped the second fewest amount of vaccines per 100,000 residents compared to the other states, according to the CDC website.

[LIST: Where are Georgia’s mass vaccination sites?]

The governor said the number of doses shipped to the state has been out of their control since day one, but the state is continually talking with the federal government about the shipments.

“We just got to keep moving. We got to keep getting people vaccinated. That is why we are opening it up. We have a lot of availability out there. Even if people are going to register today, if they can’t find an appointment for this week, I would go ahead and schedule for next week as our supply ramps up. We are going to continue to send doses where the demand is,” Kemp said.

[QUICK LINKS: Here’s where you can get COVID-19 vaccines around metro Atlanta]

Kemp stressed the importance of being patient trying to sign up for vaccine.

“As we said before, we know when we take steps like this, it’s going to create a lot of demand, especially in the metro Atlanta area. We’ll have to work through that,” he said. “I visited the site at Mercedes-Benz. They have appointments now available that you can get for next week. They may fill up quickly but there are other local sites.”

Channel 2′s Steve Gehlbach also visited the Mercedes-Benz Stadium mass vaccination site that Kemp toured earlier Tuesday.

It will be the largest vaccination site in Georgia and the southeast. The stadium has been open since January with just one small section or pod, administering about a 1,000 shots a day.

FEMA will take over the site on Wednesday and open up five more pods. The site will now be able to do 6,000 vaccinations a day, seven days a week.

There will be 700 workers using all three levels of the concourse. Over the next eight weeks, the site will vaccinate around 210,000 people with more than 400,000 doses.

The governor’s decision to open up vaccines to all adults was met with praise from Georgia Democrats and Republicans at the state Capitol.

[RELATED: Thousands of COVID-19 vaccine appointments now available at Mercedes-Benz Stadium]

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot spoke with officials on both sides of the political aisle who said the expected announcement was welcome news.

“If I had a choice, I would’ve done it a little differently. The teachers would’ve been among the first, but I’m glad that everybody’s going to have an opportunity to participate in getting it. It’s overdue,” said Democrat State Rep. Roger Bruce.

“The people over 65, we went through a certain parameters to guide the vaccines coming in. Now that we’re getting more and more, we need to offer it to everyone who wants it,” said Republican State Rep. Emory Dunahoo.