ATLANTA — The state of Georgia is taking an ambitious goal to more than double its partially vaccinated population in less than three months.
“My goal, and I hope we can reach it together, is 80% of all Georgians vaccinated by the Fourth of July,” said Georgia Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Kathleen Toomey.
With vaccine supply much less of a hurdle, more community leaders are focusing on access through the “It’s Worth a Shot” campaign.
“Union City and many other cities, just like mine, are now vaccine locations,” said Union City Mayor Vince Williams.
Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi have the three lowest vaccination rates in the country.
But Toomey told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson that progress is being made.
“I talk frequently to my colleagues in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas. What we’re seeing is some hesitancy among communities of color, although we have been very successful in being able to reach those communities,” Toomey said.
There has been more of an effort to bring the vaccine to workplaces, which Toomey said is having an effect.
“Many of them, Latino, Latinx individuals, without them having to go out into the community, they can get their vaccine right there. And it’s safe and easy,” Toomey said.
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Georgia has the third-lowest vaccination rate in the country, in part, because of hesitancy.
“Our biggest challenge right now is among the white community, particularly in rural Georgia, that simply is not interested in the vaccine right now,” Toomey said.
Amy English lives in Hall County and told Johnson that her decision not to get vaccinated is based on research she has done.
“I live sort of in a bubble of people who don’t want the vaccine. I don’t know a whole lot of people who do,” English said.
She’s part of an estimated 13% of Americans — according to the Kaiser Family Foundation — who said they will never get vaccinated.
“So we’re going to let vaccinated people have these privileges, and we’re going to let you know make unvaccinated people won’t have these privileges. That’s just unethical. In my opinion, it’s coercion,” English said.
COVID-19 cases in Georgia are plateauing, and health officials said the vaccine is playing a role.
They’re hopeful the skepticism they see is temporary.
“I had some apprehension in the beginning simply because it was new. But now, time has passed, relatively few issues. I felt comfortable getting it,” said Barrett Carter, of Cobb County.
State data currently shows that every week, about 2.4% of the state’s population is getting their first dose.
At that rate, 70% of Georgia would be partially vaccinated by July 4, but that current rate could always speed up or slow down.