Race to find vaccine appointments in Georgia becomes more competitive

ATLANTA — Millions of more Georgians are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting on Thursday as the eligibility expands to everyone 16 and older.

However, many people who became eligible in the last expansion still haven’t gotten their vaccines yet.

Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik spoke with some Georgians about the concerns they have competing with a new group.

[SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Vaccine in Georgia]

As soon as Gov. Brian Kemp made his announcement yesterday, Channel 2 heard from many people on social media saying they’ve been eligible for weeks but haven’t been able to find open appointments.

“I’ve been trying to get an appointment for about two weeks now,” teacher Darryl Terry II said. “I’ve looked at Kroger, Publix, Walmart. I looked at Mercy Health. I went to a few other centers and everybody is booked.”

Terry is concerned the decision to open up vaccines more on Thursday will make a difficult search even harder.

“It’s about to explode.”

RELATED STORIES

On Tuesday, the governor admitted appointments might fill up fast, but he said the state’s shifting 70% of its new allotment to meet demand in north Georgia.

Vaccines are spread out across the state’s nine mass vaccination sites and at dozens of chain pharmacies, doctors offices and clinics. There’s no central clearinghouse for finding appointment openings or availability.

“If you’re desperate to get a vaccine now, and there’s not an appointment the rest of this week, if you’re willing to drive an hour you may be able to find health departments outside of the metro area that have availability,” Kemp said.

But not everyone has that luxury.

Lab worker Kira Milford at a vaccine site in Alpharetta told Petchenik that she waited two months to find a spot hear her home and work.

“I’m concerned the frontline workers haven’t been able to get their appointments before everyone else and I’m worried about the supply,” she said.

[LINK: Where to find the COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia]

Petchenik asked the Georgia Department of Public Health about the decision to open vaccines to all when there’s concern about Georgia not getting its fair share of the doses coming from the federal government. He received this response from a department spokesperson.

“There are areas of the state where vaccine hesitancy, or to some extent saturation, among eligible populations (small, rural areas and/or seniors) and vaccine is not being used. We are doing a few things to ensure doses are going into arms, including moving vaccine from low demand areas of the state to high demand areas. And opening up vaccination to all Georgians who want a vaccine. We know that demand will outweigh supply and allocations right now, but we must use what we have and this is a way to do it.”

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]