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Atlanta hospitals prepare for first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

As demand for vaccines is high and supply is low, each hospital has its own plan for how it will distribute them to healthcare workers.

ATLANTA — Healthcare workers in the metro Atlanta area are preparing for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, after the first shipment of 5,850 doses arrived to the Coastal Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey traveled to Savannah on Tuesday to watch as healthcare workers administered the vaccine.

"The only limitation is the production of the vaccine, which has been slowed somewhat in December and will be accelerating again in the new year," said Dr. Toomey.

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Hospitals in the Atlanta area are expected to receive doses on Wednesday. Since demand is high and supply is low, many facilities will have to prioritize which healthcare workers will receive them first.

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Dr. Toomey says some rural hospitals are waiting for the Moderna vaccine, which could be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the week, because it will be easier to transport, as it only has to be kept at -20 degrees Celsius, as opposed to Pfizer's -70 degrees Celsius. 

"Many of the rural hospitals, as well as rural health departments, have chosen to wait a week or so for the Moderna vaccine," she said. "I expect us to get about 174,000 doses of that vaccine and that doesn't require the super, deep cold freezer, so that will be a lot easier to transport and a lot easier for smaller facilities that don't have as many people to be vaccinated to accept."

According to the NBC map below, four out of five Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy that will be part of the federal vaccine allocation. Those areas are shaded in blue, while areas with zero access within five miles are shown in red.

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In Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, and surrounding counties, at least 99% of residents live within five miles of a participating pharmacy, while 0 to 1% of residents in rural counties like Taliaferro and Warren live within five miles.

Credit: NBC

Dr. Toomey says Georgia will receive 84,000 more doses in this initial allocation of Pfizer vaccines. She adds that they are hopeful all Georgians will be able to receive the vaccine by the summer.

"As we look to essential workers, that's many, many people," said Dr. Toomey. "50,000 individuals we believe that fit into essential worker category if not more."

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