COVID-19 immunizations have begun in Northwest Georgia, but public health’s vaccine supply remains very limited.

The Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District will begin updating the public on vaccine availability on a weekly basis, according to a release sent out last week.

The announcement came on the final day of 2020 as December became tied for the deadliest month of the pandemic for Polk County.

Phase 1a of Georgia’s COVID-19 vaccination plan initially included only healthcare workers and residents of Long-Term Care Facilities (LTCFs). The Northwest Health District and local county health department staff have already begun immunizing area healthcare workers. Retail pharmacies are immunizing LTCF residents.

Governor Kemp has now expanded Phase 1a to include adults aged 65 and older, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and first responders. “Our ability to begin immunizing individuals in these groups will depend on vaccine availability,” said Dr. Gary Voccio, health director for the Northwest Health District.

“Vaccine supply at the moment in Northwest Georgia remains very limited, and we are uncertain about how long it might be before it increases enough to allow us to begin immunizing individuals in the expanded Phase 1a groups. We will begin when there is adequate vaccine supply available.”

The state reported 26 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Polk County residents on Thursday, continuing a spike that has seen 338 new cases confirmed in the last two weeks of 2020.

Also reported was a another COVID-19-related death in the county, which brought December’s total to 11. That matches Polk County’s record set in October. Another 15 residents have been hospitalized in the last two weeks as well.

In total, Polk County has had 2,570 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus since the start of the pandemic in March, with 221 people hospitalized due to complications from the disease. The newest death reported Thursday brings the total toll to 44 for the year.

According the Department of Public Health, 544 new cases were confirmed in Polk County in December. That is second to only August for the most cases in a month.

The ten-county health district, which includes Polk County, will begin making weekly, public updates through news media, social media, and the district’s website (www.nwgapublichealth.org) with details on vaccine-and-immunization availability.

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