Cobb ahead of metro Atlanta, state in COVID-19 vaccination

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

by Arielle Robinson

Dr. Janet Memark, the District Health Director of Cobb & Douglas Public Health presented an update to the Cobb County Board of Commissioners about COVID-19 at the BOC’s regular meeting Tuesday.

Memark said that Cobb County residents are getting the COVID-19 vaccine at higher rates than the state of Georgia and metro Atlanta.

Thirty-nine percent of Cobb residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine while 30 percent are fully vaccinated.

The rest of the state has received at least one dose of the vaccine at a rate of 36 percent. Twenty-eight percent of the state is fully vaccinated.

Memark said while Cobb residents are doing a great job at getting vaccinated, 30 percent is not a high enough number for people fully vaccinated.

The doctor encouraged people to have their 12-15-year-olds vaccinated, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently approved this age range for the Pfizer vaccine.

Memark said COVID-19 rates have been improving for Cobb County but the numbers are still more than what public health agencies consider high transmission rates.

Memark emphasized that the pandemic is not over just yet. She said everyone should do their part to prevent spreading the disease.

Part of this includes still getting tested if one displays symptoms of COVID-19. Another aspect is, of course, getting vaccinated.

Those wanting to get vaccinated for free can do so at Jim Miller Park or Arbor Place Mall. These locations have the Pfizer vaccine.

People can also register at one of the Georgia Mass Vaccination Sites, check the Georgia Department of Public Health for vaccine locators or check with their local pharmacy for vaccine appointments

Cobb and Douglas Public Health also have an outreach team that goes to various places to deliver the vaccine.

Memark said the goal of the outreach team at the moment is getting to “harder to reach” communities to provide vaccination services.

There is also a service where one can dial 211 and a Lyft driver will give them free transportation to a vaccine site.

The doctor said that once vaccinated, people will have more freedom to return to normal life.

“You can go to church with your vaccination and feel safer — just make sure you wear your mask,” Memark said. “You can go indoor dining, you can gather with friends — even some friends that are unvaccinated. But it’s much, much safer if you get your vaccine … you’re putting less people at risk.”

The number of positive cases in the county continues to decrease, which is another good indicator, Memark said.

A concerning aspect of the virus is that the most vulnerable people continue to die from COVID-19, Memark told the board.

Around 1,053 people have died or are presumed dead from the disease in the county as of the Tuesday BOC meeting.

Another concern Memark has is that potentially more dangerous COVID-19 variants are being found around the United States and Georgia.

The more contagious and possibly more severe United Kingdom variant, B117, has appeared in the US and Georgia and case numbers of it have been continually increasing from January this year through early April.

The New York, California and Indian variants are also appearing around the US.

If the majority of people get vaccinated, that can protect against the more severe variants spreading, Memark said.

The doctor also said that the majority of people getting vaccinated can help protect the immunocompromised that do not respond to the vaccines.

“There’s a new study that came out that’s showing that transplant patients are not mounting a response to the vaccine,” Memark said. “This is a group of patients that are immunosuppressed that cannot mount a response and be protected by the vaccine, so it’s our job as a community to protect the most vulnerable.”

Memark finished her presentation by saying that someone getting COVID-19 does not make them immune to getting the disease again, so it is important for those who have had COVID-19 to get the vaccine.

People can also get their vaccine quickly after recovering from COVID-19, she said.

Memark emphasized how safe the vaccine is.

“So please, we’re almost there, let’s all get our vaccines and we’ll get to the finish line on this,” Memark said.

Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She also freelances for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and is the former president of KSU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a former CNN intern. She enjoys music, reading, and live shows.