DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey receives a COVID-19 vaccine.
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Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey receives a COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 17, 2020.
Credit: Screenshot taken during live stream of news conference

As vaccine supplies remain available, health officials in Georgia are planning to allow residents age 65 and older to volunteer.

Additionally, the Department of Public Health will add law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders to the current group of individuals eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccination.

Health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities are already in this highest priority group. The expanded administration of vaccine is expected to begin within the next two weeks, provided there is adequate vaccine supply available.

MORE: Want A COVID-19 Vaccine? Georgians Can Call Hotline To Find Out When

DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said in the not-too-distant future, people will be able to get vaccinated in higher numbers.

"We envision a number of drive-through mass vaccination clinics," Toomey said during a news conference Thursday. "We'll be able to do thousands of people a day."

The governor's office said it is critical that even as vaccine becomes available to more people, all Georgians must continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. While the COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective in preventing illness in the individual being vaccinated, it is not yet known if the vaccine fully prevents person to person transmission or asymptomatic infections.

But, Toomey said in some parts of the state people are less eager to get vaccinated.

"And it really made sense for us to move into this additional category to offer a vaccine for such vulnerable individuals at a time when, sadly, we are not getting the kind of uptake of vaccine by health care workers all over the state," she said. "By contrast, here in metro Atlanta, there's still a waiting list of hundreds of health care workers waiting to get vaccinated. But in many parts of rural Georgia, both of the north and the south, there's vaccine available and literally sitting in freezers. That's unacceptable. We have we have lives to save."

The state has established a hotline at 888-357-0169 for Georgians to call for more information about the vaccine rollout.