COVID vaccine availability increased; Southwest Health District changes testing routine

COVID vaccine availability increased; Southwest Health District changes testing routine
Anyone over 16 in Georgia can get vaccinated starting Thursday.

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Starting Thursday, everyone 16 and older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, following the announcement by Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday.

Southwest Health District also announced Wednesday that a steady decrease in demand in the district for COVID-19 testing has produced changes in the days and locations of its testing sites operated by MAKO Medical on behalf of public health.

The health district said to redirect resources to meet the increasing demand for vaccines, starting Tuesday, March 30, testing will be available from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds location in Albany.

Testing is also available 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays in Colquitt County at the Gladys Espy School Complex, 1800 Park Avenue SE, Moultrie.

COVID-19 testing is free and available to everyone, regardless of county of residence. The health district said appointments are strongly encouraged and can be made online or by calling (229) 352-6567.

Increased COVID vaccine supply and significant progress in vaccinating Georgia seniors allowed the state to move forward and to ensure all vaccine doses are being put into arms, the health district said in a release.

Vaccination, along with strict compliance with basic prevention measures — wearing a mask, staying six feet from others, avoiding large gatherings and washing your hands frequently — will help Georgia stop the spread of COVID-19, the health district said.

Pfizer is the only COVID vaccine approved for teens 16 and 17-years-old.
Pfizer is the only COVID vaccine approved for teens 16 and 17-years-old. (Source: WOIO)

These measures are critically important as SARs-CoV-2 variants continue to circulate and increase in Georgia, according to the health district.

Currently, there are 367 confirmed COVID cases with variants statewide; 351 cases with the UK variant (B.1.1.7), 15 cases with the South Africa variant (B.1.351), and one case with the Brazil variant (P.1). These variants appear to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.

Anyone with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection.

“Follow the advice of your health care provider about what you should do while you wait for your test results. COVID testing not only helps DPH control and mitigate infection, but it also provides valuable information about variants when positive test results are sequenced.” the health district said.

To receive the vaccine, appointments can be scheduled by contacting your local health department or through the call center at (229) 352-6567. Vaccines are free for all residents, but health insurance information might be collected at the appointment.

The health district said the Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID vaccine approved for teens 16 and 17-years-old. The Southwest Georgia Health District currently does not offer Pfizer. Many providers in Southwest Georgia, such as hospitals, private practices, and drug stores, offer the Pfizer vaccine, including Phoebe Putney, according to the health district.

For Pfizer vaccine appointments at Phoebe’s Albany, Americus, and Sylvester locations, call (229) 312-1919.

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