Georgia Health Officials Won’t Check Residency for COVID-19 Vaccines as ‘Vaccine Tourism’ Occurs


Despite reports of individuals engaging in “vaccine tourism,” state officials said they won’t be checking residency before administering COVID-19 vaccines. In a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Kathleen Toomey responded to a reporter’s inquiry about individuals admitting they were traveling from out of state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia.

“I think it’s important that everybody know: we’re not going to be checking driver’s licenses, we’re not going to police this process. Does that mean somebody may slip in from out of state? Possibly,” stated Toomey. “I think it’s important that we don’t want to be policemen. We want to encourage as much vaccination as we can.”

Toomey added that there may be individuals who live out of state but work in Georgia, and that they are considered eligible for the vaccine.

The Georgia Star News reached out to Toomey inquiring about any documentation of “vaccine tourism” by the state. She didn’t issue a response by press time.

Due to similar issues with “vaccine tourism,” Florida issued a public health advisory last week instructing providers to check all recipients’ residency before administering the vaccine.

During the same press conference, Governor Brian Kemp noted that the state had marked over 251,000 vaccinations administered as of 6 p.m. EST on Monday. He added that CVS and Walgreens had completed their nursing facility vaccine programs, which means that an additional 40,000 doses will be distributed to general health providers and public health clinics.

However, Kemp shared that they hadn’t reached their halfway mark to vaccinate all of the designated 1A+ population on the vaccine rollout plan – which numbers over 2 million people. The governor explained that was the reason that educators, school staff, and those with developmental disabilities won’t be able to receive vaccines currently.

“The truth is: we do not have yet enough vaccines for those most at-risk, serious complications or death from this virus,” stated Kemp. “With limited supply and no indication of when we will begin receiving an increased weekly allotment in the coming days, Dr. Toomey and I are committed to vaccinating as many of the current 1A+ population as quickly as we can. Once Dr. Toomey and her team feel comfortable that we can expand that criteria, we will be ready and we will move quickly to do that.”

This past week, several counties across Georgia have reported shortages of vaccines. This included the counties within the North Central Health District and the South Health District. Their spokespersons didn’t respond to request for comment by press time.

As for the new coronavirus strain reported in Georgia and elsewhere in the world, Kemp stated that there were a lot of unknowns concerning its deadliness and transmissibility. He added that the numbers on COVID-19 reflected marked improvements across the board. Kemp stated that Georgia has recently reported the lowest number of hospitalizations in over three weeks, a much lower positivity trend, and the lowest cases per day since January 1st.

In spite of the improvements, Kemp and Toomey warned that a considerable spread was still occurring and that hospitals couldn’t handle an additional surge. They urged citizens to follow COVID-19 guidelines such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Georgia Star News and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].






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