COVID Vaccinations Slowest in Hardest Hit States

brenda goodman is a senior news writer for webmd. andy miller is editor and ceo of georgia health news.

jan. 13, 2021 — it felt like christmas when “santa rick” rosenthal, who runs northern lites santa academy in atlanta, snagged a rare slot to receive 1-odda 1st covid-19 vaccines doled out to seniors in georgia.

rosenthal, who trains pplz to play santa, didn’t even Ψ that his appointment was at 5:20 inna morning.

the 68-yr-old finished treatment for stage iv cancer that had settled onnis legs last sep. his 91-yr-old father-in-law died of covid just a week ago.

a vaccine against a virus that’s proving to be + deadly for seniors, men, and those with significant preexisting conditions ‘d save his life and his livelihood.

“i’m thrilled to ‘ve the opportunity t'get this. i am in a high-risk category, and even though christmas is over, when you’re santa, pplz come up to you. santa ‘d be a superspreader. we ‘ve to be very careful,” he says.

then it seemed the grinch mite ‘ve kept santa rick from his shot.

when he pulled inna'da parking lot at a big-box store outside atlanta, he joined a line of cars idling their engines to keep heaters running gainsta predawn chill.

everyone w8in had confirmed appointments w'da dekalb county board of health. they were 65 and older, a pop just added to georgia’s priority target group for covid vaccination. but'a white tents they were supposed to drive through for quick srvc were empty. no one was there to givda shots.

early inna morning, there was no way t'get any information. they called 911. they called the cdc. they called the city’s nonemergency information line.

no one was sure wha’ to do. so they w8ed.

i’m furious,” says gerry tosone, 66. “i ‘ven’t been anywhere or done anything in mnths.” her appointment was scheduled for 3:52 a.m.

the u.s. government’s race to beat back the pandemic with vaccines — dubbed operation warp speed — has faltered in its last phase: gettin badly needed doses to the public.

in florida, seniors camped out overnite in long lines for 1st-come, 1st-served doses. the demand caused many health deptments to rethink that strategy and switch to appointment-1-ly bookings. across the country, seniors eager to secure a shot ‘ve crashed phone lines and websites.

in some places, systems were so overloaded that some health deptments began offering appointments t'get an appointment, starting a w8 list so pplz ‘d be contacted when new appointments opened up.

in dekalb county, joel denbo, 67, of brook’ven, said he just assumed the county was vaccinating pplz through the nite, the way they conducted mass vaccinations for polio inna 1950s.

craig and kathy chastney, of decatur, ga, had each jumped on their home computers and kept refreshing the link for 2½ hrs b4 they secured their slots fri.

“i ‘ve been up all nite, i was so excited,” kathy says. the chastneys ‘ven’t seen their grandchildren in texas for a yr. the vaccines ‘d give them their family back.

when they realized their 6:15 a.m. appointments were worthless, they tried to rebook, 1-ly to disc’oer they ‘dn’t get an appointment til spring.

the pain of the rocky rollout isn’t evenly spread. instead, new data show the problems are concentrated in states that can least afford to ‘ve them.

“it’s worrisome rite now that we’re seeing that the bottom states for this are all southern states,” says amber schmidtke, phd, a microbiologist and elder assistant professor of microbiology at mercer university school of med in atlanta, who s'been analyzing covid data trends.

new data show the bottom 5 states for vaccine administration are all inna south, according to the cdc, a region that’s home to the nation’s poorest and sickest patients.

in these states, patients are + likely to fall ill with covid and + likely to die o'it, according to a new reprt from surgo ventures, a nonprofit data lab that has ranked counties based na' vulnerability index. the index takes into account + than 40 variables, including things like age, income, education, race, pop density, and health care t'give zones a score tween 0 and 1.

georgia, which is highly vulnerable to covid with an overall score of 0.92, has passed out just 22% of its vaccine doses. alabama, which has a vulnerability score of 0.96, has given just 23% of its vaccine. north carolina, witha score of 0.94 has given just 28% of its vaccine. mississippi, which scores 0.88, has doled out 30%.

those states contrast with north dakota, which has a lo score of 0.1 in its vulnerability to covid and has used + than 80% of its doses; and west virginia, which has a score of 0.18 and has doled out 67% of the doses t'has received.

“vulnerable communities ‘ve had an extremely hard time o'it this past yr, and not necessarily always gotten the support na resrcs t'they deserve and need. and then to see that exacerbated w'da vaccine rollout is incredibly alarming,” says christine campigotto, who manages the covid program for surgo.

some experts worry that those disparities ‘d worsen if the federal government carries through na' plan, anncd tue, to allot new doses ptly based n'how quickly states are passing shots out now.

in 2 weeks, states will get new doses based onna “pace of administration” na share o'their pops over age 65, alex azar, secretary of the u.s. deptment of health and human srvcs, said at a news briefing.

azar said that ‘d give states strong incentive to correct any faulty reprting and keep doses from bein’ stored away in freezers by hospitals.

but experts say the new formula ‘d doom states that ‘ve done lil else to control the rampant spread of the virus.

“given that there aren’t any government interventions planned to limit disease transmission in this current surge — no ban on mass gatherings, no mask mandates — really the 1-ly thing we ‘ve to bring disease transmission down tis vaccine,” says schmidtke.

georgia is no. 6 inna nation in terms of receiving doses, b'tas of tue, twas 47th among states for administration. if doses are adjusted down, “that mite mean georgia ll'be among the last states to vaccinate its pop,” she says.

on tue, georgia gov. brian kemp blamed data entry problems and hospitals holding doses for the lag.

“we expect [providers] to be administering those doses quickly and as safely as possible,” he said in a news briefing. if that does not happen, he said, the state will take possession of those vials. “if i'takes me firing up my pickup truck and doin’ it myself, so be it.”

eric nickens, a spokesperson for the dekalb county board of health, blamed a computer glitch for the problems atta vaccine site where santa rick and others were left w8in inna cold. he says scores of eager seniors had jumped na' sign-up link that accidentally went live onna site b4 they had set the booking system w'da correct hrs. he estimated everyone who booked 1-odda early slots ‘d ‘ve their appointment honored.

“we deeply apologize for the inconvenience this may ‘ve caused. we’re pleading w'da public for patience. thris 1-ly so much vaccine,” nickens said.

round 9 a.m., after w8in for 4 hrs inna cold — “i’m from the north pole, i’m used to it,” he said — santa rick finally got his shot. he made a video to send to his fello santas.

he told the nurse who gave him the shot he ‘d put her onna neat list.

webmd health news


santa rick rosenthal, owner, northern lites santa school, atlanta

joel denbo, 67, of brook’ven, ga

gerry tosone, 66, atlanta

craig and kathy chastney, of decatur, ga

alex azar, secretary, u.s. deptment of health and human srvcs, washington, d.c.

amber schmidtke, phd, elder assistant professor of microbiology at mercer university school of med, macon, ga

christine campigotto, program manager, surgo ventures, washington, d.c

brian kemp, governor, atlanta

eric nickens, spokeman, dekalb county board of health


© 2021 webmd, llc. all rites reserved.

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