ATLANTA — Georgia still stands as one of the slowest states in the U.S. when it comes to the administering of the COVID-19 vaccine. Health experts hope that making them available via pharmacies will change that statistic.
COVID-19 expert and Augusta University professor Dr. David Blake said the pharmacies should speed up the process.
"It will certainly help and I've held for quite some time that we do really well each fall with the flu vaccine," said Dr. Blake. "We vaccinated 56 percent of the country this year for the flu and we need to do more than that for COVID. We should use the same sort of infrastructure."
He adds that there are many reasons other states, like West Virginia, which has administered about 65 percent of its available doses as of Saturday afternoon, are doing better. In comparison, Georgia sits at less than 23 percent. One of the reasons being they partnered with local pharmacies.
"West Virginia has a statewide infrastructure," Dr. Blake said. "They're coordinating from the top, they have all of their pharmacies on board so if you're a West Virginia resident, you contact the state, fill out a form, they tell you which pharmacy to go, then the pharmacy has an appointment for you.
According to CNN, West Virginia also started vaccinating people in long-term care facilities a week before other states had, choosing speed over guidelines.
It is important to note that West Virginia does have a smaller population.
And while in Georgia, pharmacies now offer some hope, Dr. Blake says the state should be looking at West Virginia as an example on how to set up appointments for residents.
Instead, the current scheduling system, he says, makes it a challenge for those who are eligible to get their shots.
"They're going to send vaccines to pharmacies like Publix and you're going to have to coordinate your appointment with that Publix," he explained. "It's going to be very hit or miss with respect to each pharmacy and their availability. You're going to have to make multiple calls if you want to get your vaccine in earlier."
One of the first seniors in Georgia to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from a Publix pharmacy is Jim Mallory. The 68-year-old says he woke up at 6 a.m. Thursday to schedule his appointment and did not run into problems.
He knows he's one of the fortunate ones because appointments right now are hard to come by.
"I feel very lucky that I got it," Mallory told 11Alive. "I hope it works. I have my appointment set up for four weeks. I hope more people get it."
"I wish more people could do this. Hopefully, they can soon," he added.