Georgia’s First Deputy Health Minister Tamar Gabunia presented on January 21 some of the “key aspects” of Georgia’s national COVID-19 vaccination plan, approved by the Government earlier during the day.
Although missing the precise data, including specific date of the start of rollout, as well as which vaccines will make it into Georgians’ arms, the plan envisages immunizing approximately 60% of the population over 18 — 1.7 million citizens — by the end of 2021.
Importantly, the plan only allows using vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, or either of the top 37 national regulatory bodies, including U.S., EU, UK, Australia and Japan agencies. This condition, as per January 14, implies only Pfizer/BioNTech, Astrazeneca and Moderna will be permitted for the national vaccination plan.
According to Deputy Health Minister, the stage 1a of the plan, spanning first five weeks of vaccine rollout, foresees vaccination of 65% of all medical personnel, equaling 46,420 health workers. 60% of beneficiaries and employees of long-term care facilities, and 60% of senior citizens over 75 will also be vaccinated at this stage, involving 1,560, and 136,080 persons, respectively.
Under the next 1b stage, 60% of those between 65-74, amounting to 197,510 citizens, will get their vaccine jabs.
108,224 essential service providers and 287,040 persons belonging to 55-64 age group, representing 60% of their respective target groups, are set to follow in the 2a stage. In the 2b stage, 53,640 persons with chronic illnesses from 18-54 group, are expected to follow suit.
60% of the remainder of the population over 18, amounting to 860,740 citizens, will be vaccinated during the third and final stage of the national plan.
According to the Government plan, the costs necessary to immunize 60% of the population in 2021 will range from GEL 64.3 million (USD 19.5 million) to GEL 158.1 million (USD 47.8 million).
The large gap in possible costs, the Deputy Health Minister explained, stems from fluctuating vaccine prices, which vary based on the source and period of purchase.
According to Deputy minister Gabunia, part of the necessary costs has already been paid to Covax – one of the pillars of the international platform launched by the WHO, the European Commission and France to provide global accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines – guaranteeing 1.4 million doses, sufficient to cover 20% of the country’s population (700,000 persons).
Expanding the Vaccination Network
Although Georgia has yet to receive vaccine shots, Gabunia noted that the country has the ability to store all three types of vaccines, including those kept at the -80 degree Celsius regime, the -20 degree regime, as well as at the ones requiring 2 to 8 Celsius for preservation.
The Deputy Minister underscored, however, that delivering vaccines that must be stored at the -80 degree point requires a “complex cold chain,” making delivery at district level difficult.
“Thus, our goal is to carry out this type of vaccination in large hospitals in three cities, Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi,” the Deputy Health Minister noted, adding that when vaccines storable at the 2 to 8 degree Celsius become widely available, vaccination will be possible both regionally and at the district levels.