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How cost issues could affect local COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 6:34 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2021 at 6:45 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - There are so many reasons the COVID-19 vaccine hasn’t been given to more people, with doses still very limited, and hospitals are actually losing money vaccinating people.

We asked doctors why this is happening, and what is being done to progress the distribution.

“We need to re-evaluate what is happening with vaccine distribution,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer for Augusta University Health.

We’re in “Phase 1A+” of the vaccine rollout in Georgia, and both AU Health and University Hospital are not approved by the state Department of Health to be public vaccination sites.

As for our district Department of Health, vaccinations are already underway for people 65 and older.

“Places that are being successful we ought to build on that success,” Coule said.

The timeline isn’t the only issue, it’s the cost. Many providers aren’t able to cover their cost to vaccinate.

It costs AU Health an estimated $10,000 to $20,000 per day to run a vaccination clinic because of personnel, specialized storage, and computers. They say they aren’t getting any federal funds through the state to help.

And if you cross state lines to get vaccinated?

“Insurers just refuse to pay that vaccination fee,” Coule said.

Across the state line, Aiken County is trying to overcome its fair share of issues.

“In Aiken County, we have a limited number of providers that are currently capable of or prepared to administer the vaccine,” Sen. Tom Young of Aiken County said.

Young got a call from Aiken Regional Medical Center asking for help getting out Phase 1A.

“We expect that there will be both public and providers that will be stepping in to fill in the gap over the coming weeks,” he said.

He’s even been in touch with the National Guard to ask them for help running vaccination clinics. He’s also asked DHEC as of Tuesday morning to allow more providers.

“We obviously have to do a higher number than that statewide in order to get a large amount of the vaccination done by summer,” Young said.

Some health officials argue rolling back state control would help. They also say there’s limited providers and vaccine available so it may take some time for the rollout to smooth out.

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