As more of Forsyth’s residents have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, Chris Grimes, director of the county’s emergency management agency, has noticed the fewer people have been coming through for appointments at the county’s public vaccination site.
“I think that could be due to several things,” Grimes said. “I don’t know if it’s just a lessening demand, but I think … there are also more places in the community that are receiving the vaccine. There’s more pharmacies, more doctors’ offices … so people are not as reliant on our site.”
“Our goal from day one was to just be a resource for people who wanted to get the vaccine and give them the option to get the vaccine,” he said. “And I truly think we’ve been able to do that.”
Grimes said that the county began to offer walk-ins alongside scheduled appointments, but he has only seen “just a few walk-ins every day.”
He said that recently he’s seen some of the county’s vaccination days pass without all the appointment slots filled.
“We hit a lot of demographics that were really anxious to get the vaccine,” Grimes said. “… And [now] I don’t think there are as many people anxiously waiting for the vaccine. I think we’ve hit a point where people who really want the vaccine are being able to get it.”
Overall, the county has given “just shy of 18,000 shots” to residents. The number Grimes offered includes both inoculations; all total shots given.
Grimes said the public vaccination site at Lanier Tech will be closing in early June.
“Because we’ve seen a lower demand [for the vaccine], we feel that by the first of June, we’ll be able to shut [the Lanier Tech site] down,” Grimes said.
“From the county perspective, we will continue to partner with the Department of Public Health and others,” he said. “So we will be directing people to the health department who will be giving vaccines out.”
Grimes noted that more pharmacies and doctors’ offices have been receiving more vaccines to administer, including Georgia Highlands Medical Services.
Cheyanne Reyome, community outreach coordinator for Georgia Highlands Medical Services, said she has also seen a decrease in demand for vaccinations. While Georgia Highlands has not offered walk-ins yet, Reyome said that some appointments have been cancelled or left vacant.
“I think [the cancellations and no-shows] come with a little bit of apprehension from the [Johnson & Johnson vaccine] controversy,” Reyome said. “We are seeing a bit of a decline [in appointments], but we’re hoping that it’ll pick back up.”
Reyome said that through the different vaccination events that Georgia Highlands has done through its office and partnerships with churches like St. Brendan’s, she has not seen any patients that have had adverse reactions to either the Moderna or J&J vaccine. Typically, Reyome said patients have had mild reactions such as a rash around the injection site or “achy muscles and joints that make you feel crummy.”
“We just really encourage people to get the vaccine so that way we can curve the increasing cases, especially as these variants continue to spread throughout the world and make their way over,” Reyome said. “And if anyone has any questions, we’d be more than happy to answer them.”
While Reyome said she has seen a decline in the number of residents signing up for events, she encourages people to call the office to learn more about the different vaccines.
“We want to focus on physical health, of course,” Reyome said. “But we also want to help people through public health education.”
To learn more about Georgia Highlands Medical Services or to schedule a vaccination appointment, call (770) 887-1668.
PCG Molecular also began offering vaccinations by appointments or walk-ins at a temporary location in the Collection at Forsyth on Monday, May 3. The company is currently stationed in the old Earth Fare building off Ronald Reagan Boulevard.
Dr. Armando Moncada, chief medical officer at PCG Molecular, said their vaccination site can accommodate up to 2,000 patients each day, and they “have the vaccine supply to operate” seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We understand that vaccines are so important,” Moncada said. “They are a big component of getting us closer to normal. And we understand that by vaccinating our patients, that provides a safety net for our community.”
While Moncada said that PCG Molecular and himself felt “obligated” to get involved in rolling out vaccines to Forsyth County, he personally felt “a little bit scared” by the low number of people that have been vaccinated in the state of Georgia.
According to the Georgia Department of Health as of 5 p.m. on Monday, May 3, 35% of Georgians have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine, and 26% have been fully vaccinated. In Forsyth County, 36% of residents have received at least one dose while 27% have been fully vaccinated.
PCG Molecular’s site at the Collection will be offering appointments and walk-ups until the foreseeable future, as long as the space is available.
“We expect to be here until [the pandemic] is over,” Moncada said. “Now, we don’t know whether the vaccine at this stage will be a yearly event, but if that is the case, then we probably will be around for a while.”
PCG Molecular will offer all three types of vaccines so residents will be able to choose the one they feel is right for them. Moncada said he makes sure to speak with each patient that comes through about the different vaccine manufacturers, especially Johnson & Johnson following the recent controversy surrounding the shot.
“I myself got Johnson & Johnson and had no problem with it,” Moncada said. “It’s a great vaccine, but we are here to help educate people about it and the other [vaccines].”
“The beauty, though, is when you talk to young people and explain to them … it’s not about you … it’s about protecting your neighbors, your family, your grandparents,” he said. “There’s a lot of benefit [to getting vaccinated] for your family, for your neighbors and really, at the end, for you, too.”
Moncada said he hopes the “reluctant part of the community” will stop by PCG Molecular’s vaccinate site to either get a vaccine or learn more about them. He said he was happy to answer any questions that the public might have.
“Getting vaccinated is how we are going to be able to get our country back on track and open,” Moncada said. “It’s just so important right now.”
PCG Molecular is also offering COVID-19 PCR tests for residents who might need them.
To schedule an appointment with PCG Molecular, visit https://www.pcgmolecular.com/.
Walk-ups are also allowed and, as Moncada said, “very encouraged.”