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Long-term care facilities get second dose of vaccine after weeks of surging COVID-19 cases

Sterling Estates inoculated residents and staff for a second time after getting its first doses on Christmas Eve

MARIETTA, Ga. — People living in long-term care facilities in Georgia are starting to get their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. But as production starts ramping up, there's still a question of meeting the overwhelming demand for the vaccine.

Sterling Estates, a long-term care facility with three locations in Cobb and Fayette counties, vaccinated about 400 staff and residents Tuesday. It marked their second dose, as they first got the vaccines on Christmas Eve

It's believed they were among some of the first Georgians to receive the vaccine. Since then, the country and the state have seen surges in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Nathan Madigan, Vice President of Operations with Sterling Estates, said the second shot would provide a 95 percent efficacy rate in fending off coronavirus after two weeks, including against newly reported variants. 

RELATED: Cobb County residents some of first seniors to get COVID-19 vaccine

“We’re looking at this as a huge step in the right direction," Madigan said. "We know this is better than nothing, and we feel like it’s really strong. We’re all still wearing masks, screening visitors, sanitizing regularly, putting in air filtration systems, continuing to overstaff because in the end, just our residents and staff and healthcare professionals getting vaccinated does not stop the transmission of the virus.”

Madigan said those who got their first shots did not report any serious adverse reactions. 

Rose Pellatt, a resident at Sterling Estates, was the first to get the second dose of the vaccine at the facility. She said she experienced common symptoms like chills and body aches, which went away after a day or so. 

“It’s just a great relief," Pellatt said. "That’s more than anything else. I'm really happy about the whole thing. I haven’t seen family. It’s been hard, it’s been hard for everyone I think. I guess it’s worthwhile we stay healthy.”

Madigan said in the weeks between the first and second inoculations, Sterling Estates has had to quarantine staff due to surging COVID-19 cases and exposure. Visitations are still suspended at the long-term care facility, and Madigan said there is no regular schedule for when the facility may get more vaccine supply.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, at last check on Jan. 25, Georgia has 1,837 vaccine providers. Those providers have administered about 58 percent of available doses. 

Madigan said the infection rate at Sterling Estates was worse in the last six weeks, since the holidays, than it was all of 2020. 

He noted getting the vaccine into arms statewide will prove challenging for the next several weeks. Madigan believes more vaccine producers should help boost supply, while the state adding more vaccine providers will make it easier for people to get the shot.

Currently, Georgia is in Phase 1A+ of its vaccination rollout, which includes health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, first responders, law enforcement and people over the age of 65.

RELATED: COVID vaccine frustrations: What Georgia is doing to help get public immunized

Madigan said the information gap must be addressed as well, because some people were skeptical about getting a vaccine

He said about 95 percent of residents at Sterling Estates had received the vaccine, while 50 percent of staff had gotten the shot.