A Georgia clinic that flouted the state’s rules for who is eligible to get COVID-19 vaccins and gave teachers shots ahead of their turn has been barred from giving any vaccines for six months.
State health officials seized about 470 doses of Pfizer vaccine from the Medical Center of Elberton on Friday, after discovering it was helping teachers skip the line, according to KYFF4.
Georgia is still in the first phase of its vaccine rollout, making health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, law enforcement members and people 65 or older eligible for vaccination.
Teachers are not yet eligible, but White House and CDC officials have said it is safe for students and teachers to be back in school, in person, without being vaccinated.
Children rarely become infected and don’t often spread coronavirus at schools, according to numerous CDC studies.
‘Vaccine providers must adhere to the current phase of vaccination to ensure that the state’s limited vaccine supply is going to those most at risk,’ officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health said in a statement.
A Georgia health clinic let teachers skip the vaccination line amid the state’s slow rollout that has seen fewer than 1 million high-risk people vaccinated
The Medical Center of Elberton (pictured) ignored Georgia’s guidelines for vaccine eligibility and gave COVID-19 shots to teachers. Hundreds of doses were seized and it barred from vaccinating for six months
The clinic said it expanded its vaccination program beyond groups approved to get shots by the state to vaccinate teachers who were back to work in-person.
About 40 percent of teachers and other staff members for the Elberton County school district have already gotten vaccines – likely ahead of the line – officials told US News and World Report.
The clinic appealed the state’s decision, but was denied.
Medical Center of Elberton’s misconduct will strike a major blow to the small, rural county surrounding it.
It was the largest vaccination site in the area, and received nearly 4,00 0 of the 5,000 doses allocated to Elberton since January.
The clinic will be allowed only to keep vaccine needed to give people second doses, and appeal denial means it is suspended from doling out any more vaccines for the next six months.
Doses from the fraudulent clinic are being redistributed to other area pharmacies. At least one was recently authorized to give COVID-19 shots – likely the result of the Elberton debacle.
Georgia’s vaccination effort is moving slowly, and some of the state’s most at-risk populations are likely still unprotected from coronavirus.
Just 7.7 percent of its population has had one or more doses of the vaccine and the state has only used 60 percent of the doses distributed to it by the federal government.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (right) has said that teachers will not be allowed earlier access to vaccines. The state’s rollout got off to a slow state and it is still vaccinating only its first priority group, including health care workers and people 65 or older (file)
Only 14 states rank lower than Georgia for vaccinations: New Hampshire, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Alabama, Iowa and Idaho.
Vaccine has been across the country, however, and many at-risk people are still not vaccinated.
The White House and CDC updated their guidance and urged states to give vaccines to anyone 65 or older as reports emerged that states were throwing out doses of vaccines because they couldn’t find people to give them to before they spoiled.
It was meant to speed up the rollout to get more people some protection faster, but not to push the most at-risk people to the back of the line.
CDC has also said that keeping schools open for in-person learning is a top priority.
And vaccinations for teachers are not necessary.
‘Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools,’ said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a Wednesday White House press briefing.
‘There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated.’
Three studies found that as long as schools had students and teachers take precautions like mask-wearing and social distancing during in-person learning, there were not outbreaks that forced the schools to close down again.
In one study of six school districts in North Carolina, researchers found no cases of child-to-adult transmission that occured in school.