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COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Dose Introduced for Special Risk-Groups & Travelers

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, October 14
Georgia has reported 4,837 new cases of coronavirus, 1,586 recoveries, and 26 deaths in the past 24 hours. The previous day, on October 12, 4,775 cases of coronavirus were detected in Georgia, and 37 patients died. 30,256 remain infected with Covid-19 throughout the country.

The daily coronavirus detection rate is 9.79%, compared to 8.52% in the last seven days. The total number of deaths from the virus in the country is 9,332.

After the meeting of the Coordination Council in the Government Administration, the Deputy Minister of Health Tamar Gabunia said that this is an unusually high figure compared to the latest period when the number of indicators ranged from 2500 to 3000 and this increase will be especially studied. She added that the causes for such a rise are increased mobility and a low rate of vaccination. The deputy minister didn’t assess these numbers as indicators of the 5th wave, arguing that the country is still fighting the 4th one.

Head of the Georgian National Centre for Disease Control, Amiran Gamkrelidze, stated that the fifth wave of coronavirus will be more difficult for Georgia if the country is not able to raise the vaccination rate.

Gabunia also referred to the cases detected at schools, saying that the ministry is doing its best to prevent the closing of schools. She emphasized that schools have special protocols on how to act if an infection is detected and no further regulations are planned. 2.2% of public schools have already had to switch to online mode and at the moment, the most important thing is to effectively manage the cases detected in the classroom environment.

“As for the kindergartens, the main thing here is to follow the rules and vaccinate the staff. Unfortunately, several kindergartens have been closed recently. Schools will continue to operate in the mode they are in today,” Gabunia said.

A total of 31% of the adult population has been completely vaccinated in Georgia as of October 13, while yesterday only 6,837 individuals received the Covid-19 vaccine amid a surge of cases. The vaccination rate began to decline in Georgia in September, and less than 10,000 vaccine doses have been administered daily since the beginning of October.

Meanwhile, the Georgian government aims to vaccinate 30,000 people daily in order to reach its vaccination goal of 60% of the country’s population by the end of this year. Therefore, the government plans to undertake several initiatives to boost the vaccination rate, such as sending mobile units to various regions and organizing ‘weekly marathons’ to raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination. They are scheduled to last 3 months, starting October 15.

As of today, a total of 884,902 people are fully vaccinated in Georgia nationwide, while 1,004,298 individuals have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Currently, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and Sinovac vaccines are available in all regions of Georgia.

Deputy Minister also informed about the introduction of vaccination of children aged 12 to 15 years and booster doses for special groups, in particular, people with a high risk of severe complications of Covid-19 disease will be able to be vaccinated with an additional (booster) dose of Covid-19 vaccine, including people 50 years of age and older; Persons over 16 years of age living in long-term care facilities, their carers and persons employed in the facility; Special Penitentiary Service staff and accused/convicted persons over 16 years of age placed in penitentiary institutions (despite the lack of citizenship status and identification documents required by law); Medical staff; Persons between the ages of 16 and 49 with chronic diseases - in case of wishing to be vaccinated, these persons must submit a certificate of health status to the vaccinating institutions - Form ¹IV-100 / a.

The Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine can also be given to children between the ages of 12 and 15 with chronic illness; Children between the ages of 12 and 15, at the reasonable request of a legal representative, who need to be vaccinated in order to travel, study, receive treatment or otherwise go abroad.

"A person over the age of 50, of course, does not need to submit a certificate and can register directly or go for vaccination without registration," Gabunia explained.

The booster dose vaccination should be given at least 6 months after the completion of the initial vaccination course, which is calculated from the date of the second dose.

The booster dose can be the same or another vaccine if allowed by the vaccine manufacturer. If a person is vaccinated with Sinovac or Sinopharm, both, Chinese vaccines, as well as Pfizer, can be the booster dose, but if a citizen is vaccinated with AstraZeneca, a booster dose can only be Pfizer.

Besides that, Georgian citizens vaccinated with either the Chinese Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccine can now receive an additional shot of the Pfizer vaccine for travel purposes starting today.

If an individual wants to go abroad for travel, study, or medical treatment, at least 28 days must have passed since receiving the second shot of the Chinese vaccine to get the Pfizer jab. In order to get an additional Pfizer vaccine shot individuals must provide a ‘travel ticket, booking or an invitation or a letter from a business trip or from an employer [attesting to frequent business visits], otherwise, [additional] vaccination will not be carried out.’

The vaccination of the mentioned persons will be done at this stage without prior registration, on the basis of the documents submitted to the medical institution.

In addition, individuals in risk groups will receive anti-flu vaccines for free, amid the upcoming flu season. Vaccination against flu for pregnant women, patients on dialysis, and doctors will start this week in Georgia. Recall that influenza vaccination is possible from 6 months of age.

According to the new recommendation of the US Centers for Disease Control, the flu and coronavirus vaccines can be made on the same day, but at different anatomical localization, and the gap of 2 weeks between vaccinations is no longer required.

As of now, Georgia has 43,000 doses of anti-flu vaccines. Gamkrelidze noted that Georgia will import another 160,000 doses of anti-flu vaccines after October 20, which will be distributed to patients with chronic diseases and children in risk groups. He also hopes the private sector will purchase a sufficient amount of anti-flu vaccines in the coming future.