CUTHBERT — Randolph County’s “Neighbor 2 Neighbor” vaccination registration program is facilitating a COVID vaccination clinic that will provide up to 600 first doses of the Moderna vaccine on Saturday with 600 second doses to follow on May 8. These doses are being provided by Clay County Medical Center’s Dr. Karen Kinsell, who is coming to Cuthbert to administer the vaccinations.

Both doses of the vaccines will be administered from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the JB Smith School campus at 90 School Drive in Cuthbert. Anyone interested in registering may call Bobby Jenkins at (229) 732-1044 or Carolyn Baker at (229) 308-7064.

Using the latest CDC criteria for the Moderna vaccine, these vaccinations are available to all residents 18 years old or older. Pre-registration is required.

The vaccine event comes as health care officials in southwest Georgia note a continuing decline in positive COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, but with an eye on what many fear may be a “fourth wave” of the virus that is driving numbers up in several states.

In southwest Georgia, Phoebe Putney Health System officials announced Monday that a small recent uptick in cases had reversed itself, and the system was treating 20 patients Monday morning, 19 at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital facilities in Albany and one at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus.

The Neighbor 2 Neighbor program in Randolph County has been assisting residents in registering for vaccination appointments with the Georgia Department of Public Health for several weeks. Neighbor 2 Neighbor was instituted by the Randolph County Democratic Committee, chaired by Jenkins, in February to enlist their resources for the effort, as Randolph County has at one time been one of the counties hardest hit by COVID in the entire country.

The Democratic Committee has recruited, trained, supervised and paid door-to-door canvassers as well as providing the leadership and organization. Neighbor 2 Neighbor’s canvassers have been able to contact 563 of the 821 homes they attempted to reach and signed up more than 200 residents for vaccinations. Although organized by the Randolph County Democratic Committee, Neighbor 2 Neighbor is nonpartisan and about 30% of residents who have been helped are registered as either Republicans or Independents.

Although the vaccine clinics and Neighbor 2 Neighbor are reaching out to all residents, the Democratic Party connection has been critical to the implementation of the vaccine clinics.

“People have been so traumatized by the pandemic that they don’t trust that they can end it by getting vaccinated as soon as possible,” Kinsell said. “The word needs to get out. There was simply no program in place to respond immediately other than the Neighbor 2 Neighbor program, especially since we have lost three local community hospitals recently: Calhoun County and Stewart-Webster Hospitals (2013) and SW Georgia Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert (2020).”

Department of Public Health figures show that Randolph County has more than three times the death rate of Georgia as a whole.

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