Gov. Brian Kemp and ASL interpreter David Cowan

Gov. Brian Kemp and ASL interpreter David Cowan during a Tuesday, March 16, 2021, news conference.

Credit: GPB News

As of Wednesday, the state of Georgia will have nine mass vaccination sites, the governor said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Five new mass vaccination sites are expected to open Wednesday in Chatham, Ware, Washington, Bartow and Muscogee counties, GEMA Director James Stallings said.

Gov. Brian Kemp added judges and courthouse staff to the list of Georgians currently eligible, which includes anyone in a high-risk category such as cancer survivors, people with asthma and those considered obese.

“Any condition that may lead to a weakened immune system … please get vaccinated,” Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said.

Kemp said his office would send letters this week to all vaccine providers reminding them that the Biden administration continues to provide plenty of vaccine so that the state does not need to withhold doses.

“All providers should use 80% of doses within seven days of receiving vaccine,” Kemp said.

In the last week, the state received 458,000 vaccines including 11,500 of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot brand.

Officials expect as much or more next week, Kemp said, and an even bigger shipment is expected the week of March 29.

But the governor said the demand for vaccine is much lower outside of metro Atlanta in South Georgia.

“We are going to ship doses to where they are being used most,” Kemp said.

He also updated the media on the gap reported between COVID-19 vaccine received and administered, saying 250,000 doses were administered but not reported.

Kemp said he did not know whether a similar glitch affected other states’ statistics, but he said he hopes to better understand what has been happening by the end of the month.

He again boasted Georgia’s success with vaccinating those over age 65, who are most vulnerable to death from COVID-19 infection.

“Our targeted approach to vaccinations is paying off,” Kemp said.

Seniors, those with high-risk conditions and medical workers are all currently encouraged to be inoculated.

“Vaccination is our ticket — as you well know — back to normalcy,” he said.

In the last week there were zero outbreaks in long-term care facilities, Toomey said, adding that the state’s positivity rate is down to about 5%. The more people who are vaccinated, the better our positivity rate will fare, she said.

For the roughly 3,000 Georgians who are homebound, Toomey said the DPH is working with local public health and community organizations to develop a plan for their vaccinations.