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What is causing vaccination delays in Georgia?

'We are trying to vaccinate a lot of people in a very short amount of time'

ATLANTA — The vaccine rollout has not been as fast as many had hoped with millions of vaccines shipped out, now just waiting to be administered.

COVID-19 vaccines started rolling out across the country in mid-December and arriving in Georgia on Dec. 14. But when it comes to the actual administration, some challenges are causing delays.

 "To complicate things, we are dealing with a very contagious disease, so we can not simply accumulate or congregate or line up a huge amount of people in a small place indoors," said supply chain expert, Pinar Keskinocak.

Keskinocak added that while scheduling appointments for those included in phase one to be vaccinated is the safest bet, it is not the most efficient.

"What's happening in these clinics and facilities is by appointment, which is good for a convenience perspective but not good in terms of speed,"  said Keskinocak.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses and come in multi-dose vials, so the schedule needs to be precise or the vaccines could be wasted.

"Such as a 10-dose vial for Moderna and 5-dose for Pfizer, once opened, the vial needs to be administered within six hours," said Keskinocak.

Federal officials had stated that their goal was for 20 million people to get their first shot by the end of December. More than 13 million doses were sent out but, as of Jan. 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was reporting only 4.2 million had received their first dose.

Here in Georgia, the total number of doses distributed as of Jan. 2 is 445,550

The number of people who received their first dose is only 75,157.

"Which is about 20 percent so relatively small, so, in that sense, we are behind and have some catching up to do," said Keskinocak.

So, could these vaccines go bad or expire before they can be administered? Georgia Tech Biochemist M.G. Finn said that's not likely.

"The fact that there has been a delay in administering the vaccine is of no concern about them expiring or losing potency- that would happen over a much longer period of time," said Finn.

But regardless of expiration dates, Finn said there still is a need for speed when lives are on the line.

"It would be nice to have vaccines distributed as quickly as possible so we hope for better outcomes in the weeks and months ahead," said Finn.

Finn said we are still a long way from herd immunity, so even if you get a vaccine or have some immunity from already recovering from COVID,  you still need to follow the guidelines like social distancing and wearing a mask.

In a statement from the Georgia Department of Public health, they said: 

“Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have shelf life of up to six months. We have expanded Phase 1a to ensure that areas of the state that had fewer healthcare workers and healthcare facilities could use vaccine they had available for police and fire personnel and adults 65+.”