Georgia’s vaccine rate rises amid COVID spike; incentives coming?

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article reflected figures from another news organization that have since been revised.

As the Delta variant drives a relentless COVID-19 surge, Georgia’s vaccination rate has picked up steam.

A Washington Post analysis, based on CDC data, reported Tuesday that the state’s rate of new doses administered climbed 26 percent over the past week. The national vaccination rate rose 8 percent during the same time.

Georgia has seen a spike in infections — especially in the southern part of the state — and had the ninth-most confirmed COVID cases per capita among the states and D.C. over the past week, the Post analysis shows.

Meanwhile, the state reported more than 7,000 new COVID cases Tuesday, and the current hospitalizations for the disease have risen above 3,600. Georgia overall has among the lowest rates of fully vaccinated residents, at about 41 percent.

The Macon Telegraph, though, reported that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is considering incentives to encourage residents to receive the COVID vaccine as cases and hospitalizations increase statewide.

Kemp did not mention the matter during a speech he made Tuesday in Columbus at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Congressional Luncheon, but a spokesperson said that the governor is “considering a variety of incentives.”

“Governor Kemp has been consistent in saying that the vaccine is safe and effective and that every Georgian should consider talking to their doctor about getting the life-saving shot,” spokesperson Mallory Blount said in a text message, the newspaper reported.

Other states have offered incentives to get shots.

One of the biggest incentives is Ohio’s Vax-a-Million campaign. It allowed vaccinated adults to enter a drawing for one of five $1 million awards, or for residents between 12 and 17 years old, one of five four-year scholarships to an Ohio state school, including room and board, tuition and books.

Colorado gave away five $1 million cash prizes for vaccinated adults and rounds of higher education scholarships for teenagers who got vaccinated earlier this year.

Some hospitals require shots

To help speed vaccinations, an increasing number of employers have issued vaccine mandates for workers. Such requirements have been adopted by large Georgia health systems Emory, Piedmont and Wellstar.

And this week, long-term care companies PruittHealth, Community Health Services of Georgia and A.G. Rhodes announced jointly that they will require all employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 “in an effort to curb the rising number of cases in communities they serve.’’

A sense of going backward

Medical providers in Georgia continue to describe the devastating impact from rising virus cases.


In Albany, Phoebe Putney Health System reported 18 new COVID patients being admitted since Monday morning. The nonprofit system was a national COVID hot spot in the early months of the pandemic.

“With schools returning to session and young children unable to get vaccinated, we worry about students contracting and spreading the virus,’’ Scott Steiner, Phoebe Putney’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We hope schools in our area will follow the CDC recommendation for universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of their vaccination status.”

“This is an extraordinary point of the pandemic,’’ said Dr. Dianna Grant, Phoebe Putney chief medical officer. “All hospitals are operating at capacity.  We need people in our communities to recognize the seriousness of the current situation and do what they can to reduce the spread of the virus by getting vaccinated and wearing masks.”

Concerns about children

There is no approved vaccine for children under age 12, and with the variant raging, rising numbers of kids have become infected in the state.

Schools around metro Atlanta opened their doors last week to students, including hundreds who were infected with the coronavirus, leading to quarantines of students and staff and safety concerns among parents, the AJC reported.

Fifteen children are hospitalized with the disease at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the pediatric system said Tuesday.

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At Memorial Health in Savannah, Dr. Stephen Thacker said that “prior to this surge we would go many days to weeks without a pediatric COVID-19 admission. Over the last seven days, our average number of children admitted with COVID-19 has been four. Children needing ICU level care have often had serious underlying chronic health conditions.”

A Wellstar Health System pediatrician, Dr. Andrew Doyle, told GHN on Monday that “we are clearly seeing an increase in children [having COVID] in clinics, urgent cares and ERs.’’

More children appear to be infected during this COVID surge than previous ones, he said.

“The Delta variant is a particularly dangerous form of disease,’’ Doyle said. “Children are incredibly vulnerable, especially those under 12 because they can’t be vaccinated.’’