Updated at 5:55 p.m. Tuesday
Gov. Brian Kemp says every Georgian 16 and over who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will be eligible to get it as of Thursday, March 25.
In a press conference Tuesday, Kemp said nearly three-quarters of Georgia seniors have received one vaccine dose and that larger metro areas like Atlanta continue to see high demand.
“But we’re also seeing less demand in our rural areas, so we’re expanding eligibility to make sure we continue to keep the demand as high as we can,” he said.
Demand is also showing signs of slowing among residents 65 and older, Kemp said.
Georgia joins the handful of states that have expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone, regardless of occupation or health status.
Alaska became the first state to do so earlier this month, and Mississippi made the move last week.
Federal regulators have authorized Pfizer’s vaccine for people 16 and older. The vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have been authorized for people 18 and older.
Kemp warned that opening up shots to everyone would likely cause demand to spike again. He encouraged everyone currently eligible to go ahead and book appointments before they become harder to get later this week.
“Please make your appointment,” he said. “If none are available today or tomorrow, go ahead and make an appointment for next week or two weeks down the road, whatever the case may be, and confirm your spot in line as quick as possible.”
The governor stressed that there are lots of options for people looking for shots in metro Atlanta, including a federally run mass-vaccination site at Mercedes-Benz Stadium set to open Wednesday.
But he said there continues to be more availability in rural parts of the state where demand is lower.
“If you’re willing to drive an hour, you may be able to find health departments outside of the metro [Atlanta] area that have availability. There certainly are those south of the gnat line. We know that for sure.”
The move puts Georgia well ahead of the May 1 deadline from the White House for states to open up vaccinations for everyone, one part of the Biden administration’s plan to inoculate as many Americans as quickly as possible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says about 1 in 4 people have received their first dose and nearly 14% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated.
Georgia continues to rank near the bottom of all states in the number of shots administered for every 100,000 residents, though state officials have long quarreled with that ranking.