Kemp at Jim Miller Park: vaccination delays due to lack of supply

Governor Brian Kemp wearing a mask speaking to reportersGov Brian Kemp speaks to reporters at Jim Miller Park (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Gov. Brian Kemp said during a tour at Jim Miller Park Wednesday morning that the limiting factor in speeding up the vaccination of Georgia citizens for COVID-19 was the lack of supply.

Kemp, along Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, and Dr. Janet Memark, the District Health Director for Cobb & Douglas Public Health, visited the vaccination site, gave presentations, and answered questions from the press.

“While we have administered over 1 million vaccinations, as of today, as a reminder, we have over 2 million Georgians currently in the phase 1A+,” Kemp said.

He said that with 500,000 seniors receiving their first shot, it’s necessary to get them back for the second one, “and then continue making headway over 1.3 million seniors that we have left to get … vaccinated as possible.”

“‘I’ll also reiterate again,” Kemp said. “Georgia’s vaccine supply continues to not meet the demand that we have out in the community. So our demand is drastically outpacing the supply that we’re seeing in our state.”

After Kemp left the podium, Drs. Memark and Toomey delivered progress reports, and a Q&A with reporters began.

The Courier addressed the following question to Dr. Memark:

“We’ve had a lot of readers who have contact us, pretty desperate, in their 70s and 80s who have not even been able to get through to get a vaccination schedule for the first vaccination. What would you tell somebody like that directly if you were talking to them right here?”

Dr. Janet Memark wearing long coat stands in front of microphones at press conference
Dr. Janet Memark answers questions from the press (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

“For our county right now the vaccine supply is very low,” Dr. Memark said. “Be patient and just keep trying.”

“With the the DPH vaccine locator you can actually find different sites throughout the county and district that can get you some vaccine,” she said.

“I am worried about the folks that are not as Internet literate and so we are working with the county to come up with a call center that can help take help those folks,” Memark said. “And then we’re also going to some outreach to to go out to communities that need a little bit more assistance. We have those in the plans as well.”

Dr. Toomey also addressed the question.

“I’m so glad you asked that question, because this is what I lose sleep at night about,” Dr. Toomey said. “I worry about those who can aren’t able to navigate the internet and be able to manage what seems to be an impossible scheduling process.”

Dr. Kathleen Toomey in at microphones during a press conference
Dr. Kathleen Toomey (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

“We’ve actually put together a team to develop plans that we will share to share public health statewide worked with the triple A’s, the aging agencies, as well as the department of human services,” she said.

“We’ll have social workers available to actually help individuals get scheduled at sites,” Toomey said. “And likewise, many of our districts are able to redeploy some of our mobile vans that were used for other outreach efforts, including for testing in the community, to also now do vaccinations going into particularly hard to reach areas.”

“So I’m worried about the elderly, as well as communities of color throughout the state who may have some hesitation,” Toomey said.

She said the DPH has a plan to address this that would be discussed with district health directors later that afternoon.

“Even my own colleagues, or my own peers, said to me, ‘I was told to register in a portal. I don’t know what a portal is.’,” Toomey said.

“That’s not an 86 year old, that’s a 70 year old!”

“We realize we have to make an extra effort to really mobilize all the resources we have in the state and local area to help and so we will have a comprehensive approach to be able to address these issues,” she said. “Thank you for letting me talk about something that’s very important to me.”

After the press conference the Courier asked Cobb County BOC Chairwoman Lisa Cupid what her impressions were of the presentations.

“I appreciate the governor coming to Cobb to take a look at our operation, and remarking about its efficiency,” Cupid said. “And looking at it as a template for other areas where they can open up other mass sites.”

“I appreciate also the Q&A that talked about very serious matters, about how we’re getting supply and where we’re getting that supply to and how persons who are in vulnerable communities are able to access it.” she said. “And it was helpful to hear that they are thinking about those things and want to put some plans in place.”

“But at the end of the day, it still comes down to an issue of supply and demand. And so we’re hoping that that message continues to get pushed out that this is not an issue of us caring more about some parts of our population more than others,” she said. “But this is an issue of supply and demand that we’re hoping will be ameliorated with some of the efforts of the federal government to get vaccines to the pharmacists, but also with the new vaccines that are coming out that the governor talked about.”

cars lined up at vaccination site
Line of cars at drive-through vaccination site (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)