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All Georgians now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, Mercer Macon distribution remains unclear

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. Free for use photo by Lisa Ferdinando.
Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. Free for use photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

All residents of Georgia age 16 and over are eligible starting today to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to an announcement from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.

The announcement took place on Tuesday in Atlanta at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The order comes after President Joe Biden ensured all Americans will be eligible for vaccination by May 1 at the latest. Georgia is the sixth state in the U.S. to allow all residents to be vaccinated, according to the New York Times.

Currently, people over 18 are authorized to receive any vaccine. People between the ages of 16 and 18 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine.


Where does Georgia stand?

According to Amber Schmidtke, a former Mercer School of Medicine professor who releases a daily digest of COVID-19 updates and health information, about 75% of Georgians will need to be fully vaccinated in order to approach herd immunity. That’s almost the entire population of Georgia over 16 years old.

“We could approach herd immunity if every adult in Georgia took the vaccine,” she said. “But that is unlikely at the moment considering issues of barriers to access and vaccine hesitancy. We will need a vaccine for kids in order to get to herd immunity in Georgia.”

Schmidtke’s most recent daily digest on March 22 says that Georgia still places last in vaccine distribution. About 19% of the state’s total population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and only 11% of the total population is fully vaccinated.


When is Mercer going to start giving out the vaccine?

Mercer was approved by the Georgia Department of Public Health to distribute vaccinations Feb. 25, according to an email from President Bill Underwood sent out that day.

According to an email from the provost’s office, Mercer has yet to receive their order of vaccinations.

“We hope our order arrives this week, and we will keep you informed on how to schedule vaccine appointments on the Macon and Atlanta campuses,” the email reads.

The Atlanta campus received their shipment of vaccines Thursday, according to an email from the Provost. Appointments are made on a first-come, first-served basis, and vaccines will be administered in Sheffield Gym on the Atlanta campus.

Vaccines are available at no cost, even if the patient does not have health insurance.

Mercer has run mandatory surveillance testing throughout the spring semester, and positive cases have remained consistently low. According to the last COVID-19 testing update, out of 1,223 administered tests, there were just five positive results and only two of those were on the Macon campus.

“A critical component of the University’s comprehensive plan to detect and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus is randomized surveillance testing,” Underwood said in the Feb. 25 email. “I appreciate everyone’s cooperation with our surveillance testing. Your participation makes a difference in keeping our campuses and centers safe and healthy.”

The Cluster will continue to post updates from the university as they become available.


How do I schedule a vaccine?

Mercer Medicine is not scheduling vaccines at the time.

To schedule a vaccine appointment, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health website to view a list of locations currently offering vaccines. Among those locations are Navicent Health, Kroger, Walgreens and Sam’s Club.

Drive-thru appointments can be made with Navicent Health. The process involves signing up for a specific time, driving to the location, having the vaccine administered and waiting for 15 minutes for an observation period. The patient then returns three to four weeks later to receive their second dose in the same fashion.

Before scheduling an appointment, be sure that you are able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Impacting factors  include but are not limited to recently testing positive for COVID-19, allergies to any of the ingredients or having an autoimmune disorder. If you are unsure, check with your doctor before scheduling your appointment.

Members of the Mercer community are directed to call Mercer Medicine at (478) 301-4111 or the Student Health Center 24/7 hotline at (478) 301-7425 if they begin displaying symptoms. Students who are enrolled in a course in which a student or instructor has tested positive will receive an email notifying them of their risk.

Mary Helene Hall

Mary Helene Hall ‘23 is a journalism and women’s and gender studies student who has worked for The Cluster throughout her time at Mercer. She has held internships at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and, where she covered a variety of topics including politics, crime and culture.

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