By Joan Carson
At first, finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment was an all-consuming task for many of us. Hours on the internet and the phone rarely resulted in the successful scheduling of a vaccination. Some have found useful information through local news websites and from the Georgia Department of Public Health. And many have relied on word of mouth or social media such as NextDoor postings for timely notices.
Although these resources have helped some people make their appointments, such victories are indicative of what up until now has been a “wild, wild west” style of vaccine distribution in Georgia. Fortunately, there have been significant changes that should result in more efficient appointment scheduling and vaccine distribution.
At the end of December, Governor Kemp announced that Georgia would expand vaccine distribution for Phase 1A and include those aged 65 and over and their caregivers. But there was no additional information about how that would happen. And so ensued a frantic scramble to schedule vaccinations.
On January 10, the Fulton County Department of Public Health (DPH) began scheduling appointments online for its three vaccination sites: the Aviation Cultural Center near the Fulton County Airport, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and at 4700 North Point Parkway in Alpharetta. All of those appointments were booked within a day.
At the same time, the Fulton County DPH site was providing a great deal of information about COVID-19, including testing, the promise of COVID vaccines, and a teaser about making vaccine appointments, even though there was no mechanism for doing so. Once the initial time slots were taken, there was only a notice on the site stating that no appointments were currently available. Moreover, scheduling a first appointment in no way ensured that a follow-up appointment for the second dose would be available.
Now two significant developments have changed that picture. The first is a locally developed app that provides users with notification of open appointments. By texting VAX to 844-554-4024 and then entering the name of your county, you will be notified automatically when appointments are available. (Learn more about the app at www.wabe.org/georgia-vaccine-appointment-alert-system-grew-out-of-sing-up-frustration/.)
The second development is that Fulton County DPH has changed its scheduling procedure by setting up a waiting list for vaccine appointments. After registering online at https://fultoncountyboh.jotform.com/210075657162049, interested parties will be notified by email when appointments are available. By clicking on the link included in the email, users can then schedule vaccinations. (I recommend that everybody register on the website regardless of when you expect to receive the vaccine. This way you will be at the head of the line when vaccinations become available for your tier.) In addition, the DPH has provided information about sites such as pharmacies and grocery stores where vaccine appointments may also be available at https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.
The vaccination process is becoming more and more efficient by the day in Georgia, and we can now begin to imagine a return to more normal times.