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Getting vaccine appointments still a challenge as eligibility expands in Georgia

Georgians 55 and up, and those with high-risk conditions, now are now eligible to get the vaccine.

ATLANTA — Georgia’s vaccine eligibility is expanding once again.

Just two days after Georgia’s vaccine eligibility expanded to teachers; adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers; and parents of children with complex medical conditions – the next phase for vaccine eligibility is widening again.  

This one is a massive expansion including Georgians 55 years and up, and those with serious health conditions. The Governor said opening up the vaccine to this group on Monday, March 15 will help more than 90% of those most vulnerable to the virus.

For people like Gloria Jean Thomas, it's welcome news. 

"I’m ready, completely ready," Thomas told 11Alive. At 63 years old, she has been waiting to get the vaccine. We spoke to her over the phone after news of the expansion broke.

"I’m just ready to get back in church," she said. "I miss the church people. I miss my pastor, who became a senator for Georgia. So, I can’t wait to tell him congratulations."

In addition to being over 55 years old, Thomas also has diabetes. It’s one of the 15 medical conditions that also qualifies someone to get the vaccine.   

But qualifying may be the easiest part of securing the shot. Getting a vaccine appointment is still a challenge.

One of our 11Alive colleagues was notified she’s now eligible to get the vaccine, but when she tried to book the appointment, there were no vaccine centers were available within a 100 miles.

Yet, Kemp stressed newly eligible Georgians should not wait to make their appointments on Monday, pointing to five more mass vaccination sites that are expected to open across the state next week, bringing the total to 9. Still, it’s unclear if that will help the backlog of vaccine appointments. 

Meanwhile, those trying to secure a shot, here's what you can do: 

MyVaccineGeorgia.com has a “not currently eligible” section that will alert applicants when eligibility becomes available. 

Those that sign up will be notified when they can make an appointment. 

For those who may not have internet access, they can call the health department vaccine scheduling resource line at (888) 457-0186 between Monday - Friday from 8 a.m.  to 8 p.m. or Saturday - Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vaccine rollout could start to move very quickly. 

Kemp said if there is enough supply, all adults 16 and older could be eligible to receive the vaccine in early April.