President Keel talks COVID-19 vaccine plans at virtual town hall

With Augusta University beginning to offer vaccines to the public this week, many members of the AU community may be wondering when it will be their turn.

President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, AU Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule and Provost Dr. Neil MacKinnon sought to address this and other questions at a virtual town hall Friday, Jan. 22.

Keel said rather than the new normal we’ve been talking about since the pandemic began almost a year ago, it’s time we start thinking about the “now normal.”

“Things change on a moment’s notice. We’ve all experienced that since the middle of March, when we experienced our first case (of COVID-19) here in the health system, and we’re going to be experiencing that for the foreseeable future. Certainly as we get through this calendar year,” he said. “Things are going to change. We’ve got to remain flexible and nimble and adjust to that change as we move ahead.”

Keel said vaccination efforts are following Georgia Department of Health guidelines, which are currently in Phase 1A+. This means frontline health care workers, first responders and adults 65 and older and their caregivers are eligible for the vaccine.

When vaccine supply is available, the state will simultaneously move into Phase 1B, which will include non-health care essential workers, such as educators. Phase 1C will focus on the younger population.

“Please remain patient as we balance supply and demand,” Keel said. “There just isn’t enough vaccine now to meet the demand we’re seeing.”

He also asked that AU community members who do receive an appointment for a vaccine either show up on time or cancel their appointments.

If you receive an appointment, please appear at your scheduled time. Because the vaccine must be carefully stored, each dose is measured for patients who are scheduled to receive them that day. Missed appointments mean wasted doses during a time when there is not enough to go around.

“If you double book with us and the Department of Health, and you go to the Department of Health and don’t let us know, we will have potentially wasted a vaccine scheduled for you,” he said.

Classes will continue to be held in-person with social distancing precautions in place. While employees who can work remotely with no interruption to their daily operations can continue if necessary, Keel said the current goal is to bring everyone back to the on-campus work experience.

In a bit of good news, Keel said he’s received the amended budget from the University System of Georgia and announced that the 10 percent budget cuts required going into this fiscal year are the only cuts that were needed.

“I’m excited to tell you that due to the wonderful work that our state has done and the leadership that our governor has shown to the state of Georgia, we are not going to be looking at additional budget cuts. In fact, there will be some new money that will be coming,” he said.

He said he does not yet know where that money will be applied and cautioned against assuming cuts will be restored, but said the new funds will allow the university to make some strategic investments.

In the second half of the presentation, Keel, Coule and MacKinnon addressed questions related to the vaccine and COVID-19 on campus.

Watch the full video here.

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Lisa Kaylor
Written by
Lisa Kaylor

Lisa Kaylor is Media Relations Specialist at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-721-5292 or lkaylor@augusta.edu.

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Lisa Kaylor Written by Lisa Kaylor

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