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End of national COVID-19 emergency means end to free tests, vaccinations

The Georgia Department of Public Health, will still offer vaccines and testing for free until supply is gone.

MACON, Ga. — The Department of Health and Human Services looked closely at COVID-19 trends and saw the numbers were declining. That meant it was time to end the COVID-19 emergency on May 11, 2023. 

After three years, people worldwide saw mask mandates, people died from the virus, vaccines, and treatments. Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Sandy Duke with Atrium Health Navicent says since the beginning, the only thing constant about the pandemic was change, and that included providing testing and more.

"It became about getting the vaccine to the most vulnerable in the population then it became more widely available to everyone," Duke said.

From 6 months of age and older, you could get any vaccine free of charge. With the end of the emergency, there are some changes. For one, if you don't have insurance, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for a test or vaccine. The Peach State plans to also look at who will and will not qualify for Medicaid and Medicare. Health officials say the virus will always be here and Duke says the biggest thing in health care is caring for those who are most vulnerable.

"Despite the fact the numbers are low, still have the potential for very serious consequences of the COVID illness. We still indeed do have patients in the hospital who are suffering from COVID and the effects of the COVID illness," Duke says. 

Some long-COVID symptoms include brain fog, weak lungs, and fatigue. Atrium will still offer the vaccine to those who need it and Piedmont Urgent Care will have testing available. Since the federal government supplies the vaccine, testing, and treatment, the state says they will administer it as long as supply is available.

Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens will still provide COVID medicines and treatments as long as they're available. Duke says they will work with their hospital's clinicians to provide vaccinations. 

"We offer it through our children's care services downtown, as well as through our live well teammate clinic, and then we offer it to inpatients that happen to be in the facility who perhaps don't or aren't up to date on their vaccines."

Check with your primary care physician about vaccine requirements. 

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