ALBANY — The potential for some Saturday rain isn’t putting a damper on hopes for a Saturday COVID-19 vaccination clinic whose principals have expressed expectations of surpassing the number who got shots three weeks ago.
Dougherty County residents who do turn out will be rewarded with a $100 gift card as well as a potentially life-saving dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and the incentive has been expanded to include those who receive booster shots.
“It’s a big team effort, and we’ll be ready, rain or shine,” Dougherty County Emergency Medical Services Director Sam Allen said.
For the 8 a.m.-2 p.m. clinic behind the Albany Civic Center, providers will have double the capacity of the first vaccination clinic sponsored by the county.
The Dougherty County Commission in September budgeted up to $338,000 for $100 Visa gift cards to reward residents 18 and older who get vaccinated. Residents of other counties and those ages 12-17 are eligible for vaccinations but won’t receive a gift card.
The county is funding the initiative with some of the $8 million in federal funds it received for pandemic recovery through the American Rescue Plan Act.
After the first clinic brought out 538 people to get shots — 493 for an initial shot and 45 for a second dose — officials say they are hoping for an increased response that could top 800. Event partners include Albany Area Primary Health Care, the Georgia Department of Public Health and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
“Last time we had three traffic lanes with one tent,” Allen said. “What I’m doing this time is putting up another tent so we can move the lines. Hopefully, it will be a big turnout.”
Due to the large number of participants who arrived at the September clinic on foot, the number of nurses available to vaccinate walk-up traffic will be increased from one to four.
The EMS director said he has fielded a number of calls already from residents excited about the opportunity.
“One gentleman said he’s going to bring three people with him on Saturday,” Allen said. “We’re hearing a lot of chatter on the street. In fact, we’re doubling the volume we’re going to be able to handle.”
In addition to protecting themselves and their families, those who get vaccinated also help the ambulance service by reducing the volume of calls and the number of patients who get severely ill and have to be hospitalized, Allen said. That frees up those resources to better serve individuals who have other medical emergencies.
“You look at the nurses, the paramedics ... everybody is worn down with COVID,” Allen said.
Those who get vaccinated also will protect themselves ahead of holiday gatherings and help prevent another post-holiday surge of infection in the community, he said. The EMS has staffed a number of sites since vaccines became available and only had to transport three patients who had possible, though not confirmed, reactions to a shot.
In addition to paramedics who will be on hand, Albany and county law enforcement agencies will be on site to provide traffic control and security for the event.
As for the weather, the National Weather Service is predicting a slight chance of showers with only a 20 percent chance of rain during the day on Saturday in the city.