Dr. Memark: “There’s just not enough vaccines for everybody”

coronavirus under electron microscopeCoronavirus under electron microscope (image by Felipe Esquivel Reed, licensed under CC-SA 4.0)

Dr. Janet Memark, the District Health Director of Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) spoke at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners’ Tuesday meeting about the problems with the CDPH website, and the continued alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in the county after the holidays.

She also gave an overview of the vaccine distribution system in the county, and warned that “there’s just not enough vaccines for everybody.”

Here are excerpts from her remarks, lightly edited for clarity:

Good morning. So thanks for having us this morning. I want to go ahead and start by apologizing to everybody for the issues that we had yesterday.

We definitely tested our website system, and had some trouble with the amount of traffic that we had coming through.

I’ll talk a little bit about that.

But I’ll give you just a brief update on kind of the COVID situation that we’re all in, and then jump right into vaccinations and what is going on right now.

So for those of you that are following, you know that our COVID numbers for the for Cobb County … what’s listed for the PCR numbers, which is the the regular testing that we do, it’s at 918 cases per 100,000.

When you add in our antigen numbers, the rapid testing, it’s well over 1000 cases for 100,000.

So you know, this is an extremely high transmission that we’re seeing at this point that’s happening in the community. And we have over 42,000 cases, and we have 584 deaths.

And I know they were catching up on deaths yesterday that were coming in from the weekend. And so unfortunately, we continue to fight this battle with COVID-19 in our in our community.

Our hospital situation … Kennestone Hospital is number one for the number of COVID hospitalizations throughout the state and continued to just keep rising.

(There are) very few critical care bed and medical surgical beds that are available in the hospital.

And so … they bravely continue to try to take care of everybody that comes through with COVID and non COVID. To to address the pandemic.

You know, before I forget, you know, we’re going to talk about vaccines, but we have a very serious situation that’s going on throughout our county and community, and we really need to try our best to do what we know works.

So continuing to wear our masks and washing our hands and keeping our distance. But really I’m asking folks to not go out unless it’s absolutely necessary.

We need to remember what we did when we first started this pandemic and knew we had community transmission, which was if you can stay at home, if you can work from home, do things that prevent you from having to leave the house and go and gather with people unnecessarily.

This is the recommendation.

Even for school, if you are able to go to have your children go virtual at this point, this is something that if you can do it, it is recommended. I know a lot of folks can’t. And our schools have been really amazing about keeping the doors open to allow children to be in school.

So we do have to have them help us when they’re with vaccinations. So

And there are two different issues that we experienced.

One was from our website, and we have never had anything like that happened to us before.

When the information and links were released by the Department of Public Health, by the evening of the 10th, we had reached 210% of capacity for our website, because when then we found out we shared a server and so it had to be shut down at that point.

They had to make sure that nothing malicious was happening.

Eventually they had to move us to a different server and so that’s what took so much time. So that is back up and running.

Our registration link is a little bit different of an issue.

The State of Georgia Department of Public Health is working on a universal scheduling site for us for COVID vaccines.

Our district has been using the Microsoft Dynamics for our testing component, and it’s being built for the vaccination part. And what is useful about that, not just the scheduling, but it also links on to the immunization registration system so that all that information can be automatically downloaded into that system. So what’s happening right now is that we have to manually download and put that information in at this point.

When our state went ahead and added our 65 and older, we had to build our own scheduling system .. and so it did get overwhelmed.

Our system is actually on the state servers … and so we had some trouble with that.

They’re working to increase the bandwidth for us, but by the end of the month (or) early next month, they’ll have Microsoft Dynamics going for us to have a little bit more seamless transition with this.

But we’re asking everybody, just please be patient with us as we do this. Even with the problems that we had yesterday, we sold out with all of our appointments for vaccines. And so as quickly as we put them out, they are being taken up that quickly. And so, and we’ll talk a little bit about that.

But the fact of the matter right now is there’s just not enough vaccines for everybody. And so everybody’s trying as hard as they can to get those vaccines into arms.

It’s ramping up. But it’s still not enough yet so.

So with us, with Cobb & Douglas Public Health so far, we’ve vaccinated 2500 people.

Yesterday alone, we did over 700, through Jim Miller. And so we’ve been able to also share 850 vaccines with partners that have been able to rapidly vaccinate higher risk folks like our health care workers and some of our senior citizens and so the more people that we have helping us the the more people we can get vaccinated.

We spend a lot of time working with our partners on that, which include Kennesaw State University, Metro Ambulance and Wellstar. That helps us to try to get to as many areas as we can.

The way that we’re doing our vaccinations right now, you know, we’re using Jim Miller, and we really appreciate the county’s assistance with that.

So we do have to have them help us when they’re with vaccinations. SoOur staff has been living there now for about 10 months. And so they they’ve been very grateful to be able to keep them a little bit safer trying to move through higher risk folks through our sites.

So right now we’re doing Monday through Saturday through that site,

Douglas health department is also adding vaccines today. Today will be their first day of doing it. They’re taking it a little slow to make sure they got all their procedures and protocols all worked out.

Our citizens can go to either vaccine site.

You can go actually go anywhere in the state of Georgia, we can’t stop you from signing up with any county.

We’re trying to have as much availability as we can for our citizens, but you can go to other places.

But you do need an appointment. It’s absolutely necessary.

(As) I mentioned before, vaccine supplies are limited. We only release appointments based on how much vaccine we have. And we do it as much as we have on hand so that we don’t run out and have to turn people away because of no vaccine.

So our goals for Jim Miller will be to have over 1000 shots per day … and we will continue to work with our partners.

We’re also working on a mass vaccination site for Douglas County as well.

And our hopes are there will be over 1000 shots per day as well so that we can accommodate our community.

They (the vaccine supplies) go very quickly, but you can check on our website:

For Cobb it’s http://www.cdphcovidvaccineappointments.com/. And for Douglas, it’s http://www.douglascovidvax.org.

So remember, please, you have to have an appointment, because we we are basing all appointments based on how much vaccine that we have.

And then you’ll get some instructions as well.

When you go to the Georgia Department of Public Health website, they have the vaccine locator in there and that’s a great website that will be continually updated. If you go there you there’s already four providers that are on that list that are open to the public to provide vaccinations.

Wellstar actually released 10,000 appointments to their patients … And that’s, that’s really a huge help for our community because they are the one of the biggest providers that we have.

As we as we ramp up all of our vaccination sites, we’re also working on outreach. We know that (many) people don’t have internet access, and they don’t have cars.

So we’re building outreach teams that have nurses available that will be able to go out and to help vaccinate, and go to higher risk places such as our school system to help vaccinate our educators there.

We’re also working with Wellstar … to try to go into our more vulnerable communities and communities of color that really need to have more access to vaccines and testing.

We have a mobile unit that’ll be coming soon … to be put out to also reach some harder to reach areas in our communities as well.

So the final reminders I wanted to leave with everybody:

I know this is a really hard time and there just aren’t enough vaccines and we ask everybody to please be patient as we try to roll out these appointments and vaccines.

We’ll be rolling out Saturday appointments soon, and then some appointments for next week. And so we are going through our inventory to see how many we have and make sure we have vaccines on hand before we release appointments to everybody.

So you don’t have to get the vaccine from the same place, the only criteria you have is to get the same vaccine. So if you received Pfizer first, you get the next Pfizer dose, around 21 days, if you get a Moderna vaccine, you should get a Moderna vaccine in 28 days.

Your providers may be offering vaccine, so if you received it in one location and we are able to get an appointment in another location, you can do that.

Please keep watching that DPH vaccine locator, because you will see more and more folks being added to the list that will provide access to our community for vaccines. Remember, you can go to any county to get the vaccine, you just stay within the state of Georgia.

We are in a very, very dire situation. We are seeing our cases from the holidays and from people gathering and there’s just no end in sight right now. And so even though we have vaccines, it’s just not enough for us to reach herd immunity anytime soon.

So please, we implore people to try your best to shelter as best you can, and not go out unnecessarily in gatherings with people that are outside of your immediate family. This is a very important time where we cannot continue taxing our healthcare systems, because they will eventually break if they they don’t get some help soon.