Gwinnett one of first 3 counties in Georgia to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Gwinnett County is one of the first counties in Georgia to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We were one of the three (along with Cobb and Dekalb County) that has been selected,” Dr. Audrey Arona told attendees at the Loganville City Council meeting on Thursday, going on to add that the staff would be training this weekend and expected to received the vaccine by the end of the weekend. Arona is the public health director for the combined district of Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton counties. “Ours will come before the hospitals and others, but we plan to share and to go to hospitals and vaccinate those at greatest risk – doctors, nurses and EMS. They will get their own shipments, but we felt that with the initial doses we can share,” Arona said. She went on to explain how the distribution would be with Phase 1 which is set to begin immediately now that the FDA has given its approval. She said Phase 1 would be broken down into Phase 1 A, B, and C.

Dr. Audrey Arona with Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez. Photo credit Sharon Swanepoel

Phase 1A will go to EMS Emergency first responders, medical and frontline healthcare workers – those dealing with actual healthcare and longterm care facilities.

Phase 1B will go to critical infrastructure positions, such as court, fire, police, the nuclear power plant and those 65 and older with co-morbidities

Phase 1C will go to those over the age of 65.

Arona said that the vaccines would then go out to the general public and it was likely that at that time more information would be given about how it would be distributed. It would likely be available from clinics such as CVS, Walgreens and Walmart and possibly at some point through drive-throughs in parking lots.

Arona said they will also identify places like churches or schools that could be used or going to large institutions where there are more than 100 people at a time to be vaccinated. But she said that because there are some side effects it was not advisable to vaccinate whole shifts at a time, even in the first phase distributions. 

“We are trying to do at shift changes, we wouldn’t want to vaccinate a whole city staff. We would want to stagger them. With side effects some would not feel well,” she said.

Arona spoke on the rise in COVID-19 cases currently being experienced in most of USA, including Gwinnett and the whole of Georgia. She classified the rise as going up more like a rocket and not just on an upward tragetery.

“We are not as bad as some in the midwest though,” Arona said, adding that the increase in cases it is likely in part due to the season and weather.

“The holidays and the cold weather. Hot or cold weather and people gather indoors,” she said, noting that although the number of cases are on the rise, the death rate is not.

“We are finding cases in younger and healthier people who are less at risk for severe disease as we did primarily. Despite out numbers we have protected that part of our population and our numbers have increased but death rates have not changed and the outbreaks have not driven our (death rate) numbers up.”

Arona said for the most part people were being responsible and doing what they could to reduce the spread. She advised that over Christmas people continue to be responsible, “not to travel and to minimuse family gatherings.”

Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez and other members of the Loganville City Council thanked Arona for all her assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Martinez said he and officials from the other Gwinnett County cities had participated in weekly conference calls with Arona, getting updates on the crisis and how to deal with it.

“And she helped Walton County too,” Martinez said. “We got all our instructions from Dr. Arona and I shared that with Walton County as well.”

The FDA gave its final emergency approval to begin administering the first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine on Friday night and Sunday the doses began rolling out to the states to begin the vaccination process.

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