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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / The Colonnade in Ringgold on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.

The Catoosa-Dade-Walker vaccination station at the Colonnade, which has provided nearly 55,000 vaccinations to North Georgia residents since it first opened at the start of the pandemic, has now closed and transitioned operations to local health departments.

"We created the Catoosa-Dade-Walker vaccination station at the beginning of the year because the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners had excellent relationships with CHI Memorial and with the Georgia Department of Public Health, which meant we had great access to the Pfizer vaccine," John Pless, Catoosa County spokesperson, said during a call Tuesday. "When vaccines first started rolling out, they were hard to come by in Georgia. The state had a limited supply at first and we could only get a limited amount, so we leveraged the relationships we had to get greater quantities of the Pfizer vaccine so we could provide that."

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Because other nearby counties were having similar difficulties with supply, Pless said a decision was made to create one central vaccination location in Ringgold where resources could be shared. Local health departments were offering the Moderna vaccine throughout those early months, he said.

"We had great public response in the months that followed the opening of the vaccination station, but where we are today is that 37% of Catoosa County citizens are fully vaccinated," he said. "There just hasn't been as high of a demand for vaccines. The demand is still there, it is just smaller than in prior months."

Logan Boss, public information officer for the Georgia Department of Public Health, confirmed Tuesday that a lack of demand prompted the decision to close the vaccination station. In general, the demand for vaccines at all 10 county health departments in the Northwest Georgia health district is decreasing, he said.

"[Closing the station] was a joint decision made between the Catoosa County Health Department and the Catoosa County government, in large part because the number of people coming to our Thursday drive-throughs had dwindled," Boss said.

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Boss said there was a jump in interest across all 10 health departments several weeks ago when the Moderna booster was approved.

"It has subsided since then," he said. "Demand for vaccines in Northwest Georgia remains disturbingly low."

Vaccination remains the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent serious illness from the virus, he said.

All Northwest Georgia health departments are offering free COVID-19 immunizations to anyone 5 or older. Appointments are necessary, and children aged 5-11 looking to get the shot can only receive the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The pediatric vaccine was recommended last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and is authorized for children as a two-dose series taken 3 weeks apart. Most people, Boss said, will likely turn to their pediatrician for those immunizations, rather than the health department, but the option is there for any who want to take advantage of it.

"Research shows a third of parents will get their kids vaccinated, a third said no way and the other third are waiting to see what happens and how they feel about it, so we are not expecting to see much demand in that 5-11 age group," he said.

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In addition to local health departments, residents who want COVID-19 vaccinations can get them from private providers. To find the closest COVID-19 vaccine provider, go to vaccines.gov.

Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.

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