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300,000 COVID vaccine appointments currently available in Georgia

The Department of Health believes Spring Break is to blame for low vaccination turnout this week.

Vaccination appointments were hard to come by in metro Atlanta, but as of Monday Georgia has more shots than it does people wanting to get vaccinated, so availability is wide open – including at Mercedes-Benz stadium.

There are 300,000 vaccine appointments available across the state as of Sunday night, which is an incredible number of available vaccines, and the health department says it's likely because of spring break. State officials said they want to fill those spots.

"People are traveling more, they're spending more time with their family due to the Spring Break weeks and it's lead to a lot of available appointments across the state," said Georgia Health Department Dr. R. Chris Rustin. 

He is the Senior Adviser to the Commissioner and coordinates the logistics of administering the COVID-19 vaccine across the state. 

He said he's not surprised the vaccination numbers are so low during the Spring Break.

"We saw the same thing around testing, around big holidays or events where people typically travel we see testing drop. So last week and over this week probably we are seeing vaccination numbers drop," he said. 

He said ideally, every vaccination appointment in the state would be filled, but a lot of them are empty -- especially in South Georgia.

"We have seen a lot of hesitancy, primarily in south Georgia, that's preventing people from getting vaccinated. We are studying that, trying to learn, what are the triggers that are preventing people from getting vaccinated. Maybe what we can do better to encourage people in many areas across the state where we've seen hesitancy," he said. 

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The White House just announced they would not shift the vaccine allotment to states that are vaccinating more people, so the Department of Health in Georgia wants to use all the COVID-19 vaccines they're receiving.

"We don't want to see as much inventory sitting out there as we are seeing, but it's reflecting that we have a lot of appointments, so we will continue to receive the vaccine as it's shipped and encourage people to look for appointments," he said. 

Part of the problem could be people are waiting for Johnson and Johnson vaccines to become available - that's the one and done shot.

Rustin explained there's not enough of it to go around right now. 

"J&J, the numbers have been unstable, meaning we have received the vaccine in high numbers, as much as 150,000 one week, but they've dropped off pretty significantly," he stated.

Production issues with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine have slowed its delivery to the state, so they have not started using it at many mass vaccination sites yet, Rustin said. 

But every time it is available, people jump on it.

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"In many places in the state, when we advertise J&J in clinics they fill up very fast. I think that's indicative of people wanting to be one and done. Get one vaccine and get on in their lives," he said. 

He said they're mainly using J&J in places where it would be difficult to get people back for a second dose - in homeless camps, schools, and certain businesses.

But the demand for the one-shot vaccination is still high even after eight people had adverse reactions to it at a Georgia clinic last week.

"The CDC looked into this, there were a few other states that had issues. And they believe it's coincidental. The vaccine is certainly safe. Those adverse reactions do not appear that it's because there's something bad with the vaccine. It could have been the environment. It was outdoors, it was hot. So the CDC is not recommending that we stop using it," he explained.

He said the best bet is to get the vaccine that's available the soonest and you can currently make an appointment with Moderna or Pfizer.

Mercedes Benz Stadium will be vaccinating people until 10 p.m. Free parking is available at the Silver, Red & Orange lots.

Anyway who wishes to make an appointment can visit this site or call 888-457-0186

The site is fully accessible and translation services are available. Fulton County residents who have a vaccination appointment and need assistance with transportation can call 404-613-6000 or the Fulton County Board of Health COVID-19 Call center at 404-613-8150.