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This story was updated Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at 6:34 p.m. with more information.

Vaccine efforts are being expanded in Northwest Georgia and thousands of appointments can be filled Wednesday and Thursday in Dade, Catoosa and Walker counties.

The free, drive-through site will be open Wednesday and Thursday at the Colonnade at 264 Catoosa Circle in Ringgold.

Eligible residents who live in Georgia or work in Georgia but live in Tennessee or Alabama can sign up for an appointment.

Appointments at the drive-through vaccination station will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Additional appointment times, including evening hours, will be offered according to demand. A vaccination will be reserved for each individual who registers for an appointment. Failure to show up for a scheduled appointment is discouraged because it would mean a vaccine is unavailable for someone else in need.

Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will be available.

Appointments usually last about 30 minutes. An express lane will be open for residents who fill out a sign-up form online before they arrive for their appointments. Those forms can be printed and filled out at bit.ly/3cfsNNx.

To sign up visit bit.ly/3slepJ6.

Vaccine availability has dramatically increased in Northwest Georgia after getting off to a rocky start.

In mid-March, the seven counties in the Times Free Press' coverage area showed an average of 16,065 doses per 100,000 residents, just over the state average.

Whitfield County led the way, and Dade County was second with 20,028 doses per 100,000 people. Walker County had by far the lowest vaccination rate at 8,060 doses per 100,000 residents, although health officials said at the time they noticed many people living there were being vaccinated in neighboring counties.

Catoosa County was also below the state average with 13,185 doses per 100,000 residents.

On Tuesday, the state average was 30,826 per 100,000 residents. Dade County was still well above the state average at 40,458 doses per 100,000. Catoosa County was on par with the state average with 30,470 doses, yet Walker County was still well below the state average at 20,624 doses per 100,000.

Logan Boss, spokesperson for the Northwest Georgia Health District, said there has been some noticeable hesitancy in getting the vaccine in some parts of the region.

"We're seeing decreased demand for vaccine throughout our health district," Boss said in an email Tuesday. "Perhaps expanding eligibility to anyone over 16 this Thursday will increase demand. We'll see."

The North Georgia Health District has seen similar trends.

Jennifer King, spokesperson for the health district, said in a newsletter that some people are hesitant to become vaccinated due to questions or concerns about the vaccine or the process for receiving a dose. Because of that, the district put together a site with the most commonly asked questions to try and clear up some misinformation that might be out there.

The list can be read in both English and Spanish.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced anyone over the age of 16 will be able to get a vaccine starting Thursday.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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