By Jake Cantrell & Matt Aiken / The Nugget
It took Larry Mitchell about half an hour to get his shot at last Saturday’s vaccine event at Lumpkin County Parks & Rec.
“About 32 minutes,” he said. “From the time I walked in the door and the time I walked out the door.”
Of course, the actual search for the vaccine took much longer than that.
Mitchell, like many local senior citizens, had to battle the often busy phone lines in his attempt to line up a shot. Eventually he grew tired of waiting and went to the health department where he happened to show up at the exact right time to sign up for the event.
“It was a fluke,” he said.
Upon arrival at the event Saturday he was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the workers and health officials on site.
“The people there handled it personably and professionally with an effort to get people moving through there so there was no big delay,” he said. “… It was just a very positive thing. And I know such things don’t just happen magically.”
Dahlonega resident Joe Meyer echoed that sentiment.
“It was very well organized and there were nearly no waiting lines” he said. “… It was nothing like we have seen on television.”
The event took place from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. and by the end of the day 590 people had received their first dose.
“It was a huge turnout and went as smoothly as could be,” said Lt. Alan Roach of the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office.
Dr. David Miller, who heads up the Lumpkin County Board of Health and is on the Board of Commissioners, called the event “an unqualified success.”
“590 Lumpkin County citizens were vaccinated and there were volunteers from county and city departments, as well as the University of North Georgia School of Nursing,” he said. “These included Lumpkin County Emergency Services, Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office, Senior Center, Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners, Dahlonega City Marshal, Dahlonega City Council members, Lumpkin County Board of Health and, of course, local and district Public Health employees.”
Miller says a follow up event is planned for those vaccinated on Saturday.
“All who received the first shot should have received a card with the date and time of the second vaccination,” he said. “We have also been guaranteed that there are enough vaccine doses to make sure all who received the first shot will also receive their second shot.”
For many, the search for the shot continues.
And for Brad Forrester, who has heart problems, COPD and diabetes, it’s getting desperate.
“People give me phone numbers to call,” he said. “But after three weeks of calling and getting either no answer or a recorded message, neither of which has led me to a place that I can get vaccinated, I give up.”
Forrester said he’s seeing others receive the shot and wonders what he needs to do to get one.
“Why did they skip us?,” he said. “Everybody blames everybody else for the problem. Where are our politicians and health people?
When contacted by The Nugget, Dave Palmer of the Department of Public Health for District 2 said they’re doing all they can, but the supply of vaccine isn’t keeping up with the demand.
“We are still receiving relatively small quantities of vaccine in regard to demand, so we can only offer limited numbers of appointments,” he said.
Miller’s findings were the same.
“According to the state, they have not received enough vaccine from the Federal Government to administer vaccinations to all those waiting for an appointment,” he said.
HELP ON THE WAY
Any help the vaccine can provide is welcome as the local COVID count continued to grow as 63 new cases were diagnosed throughout the week, according to Monday’s report from the Georgia Department of Health. So far a total of 2,512 Lumpkin County cases have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic. Sadly three local residents, all in their 80s, succumbed to the disease throughout the week as the death toll has now reached 39.
Hospitalizations also jumped 11 cases since last Monday, according to reports.
However, Palmer says help is on the way as more vaccine providers are becoming available across the state.
“Other enrolled providers are now receiving vaccine so we encourage people to go to the vaccine locator on the DPH website for additional opportunities for getting vaccinated,” he said.
That website is https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.
“There are now over 2,000 vaccine providers in Georgia,” Palmer said.
Using the vaccine locator tool on the site, it shows there are now three vaccination sites in Lumpkin County where people can hopefully schedule a vaccination appointment, including Walmart. (The Lumpkin County Health Department COVID line is listed as (888) 426-5073 with a secondary line of (770) 531-5692.)
Palmer says the clinics “are running smoothly” and that they are still bringing on staff and volunteers to help out.
Miller says he understands the frustrations of those not yet able to secure their vaccine, but urges that the local health department is doing all it can to distribute the vaccine efficiently.
“Asking folks ‘to be patient’ or ‘just keep trying to get through’ the phone lines are not the answers anyone wants to hear,” he said. “However, I have been assured that our local health department is administering all the doses we have received as soon as they are received.”