3. Providing health services effectively
The section on PROVIDING HEALTH SERVICES EFFECTIVELY describes approaches for service delivery planning and patient pathways for suspected COVID-19 cases. It also considers efforts by countries to maintain other essential services during periods of excessive demand for health services.
3.1 Planning services
Several medical facilities and hotels across the country have been transformed into quarantine facilities, including through the re-designation of hospitals, as the number of cases is expected to increase in the coming weeks. In November, Georgia had to increase the country’s oxygen production capacity rapidly in order to meet demand from hospitals caring for COVID-19 patients. As of 2 December, 90% of the increased demand for oxygen was met locally and the supply problems had been resolved by the import of 10 large power generators, which produce oxygen as a by-product.
The European Union (EU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have handed over 10 intensive care ventilators and 1,000 items of protective equipment to COVID-19 hospitals in Georgia for the treatment and care of Covid-patients. This shipment is a part of the large support provided jointly by the EU and WHO, which has already provided substantial medical supplies across the region, including over €1.8 million items of personal protective and medical equipment, such as isolation gowns, protective goggles, oxygen concentrators, medical masks, respirators delivered to Georgia.
The first 43,200 doses of vaccine (AstraZenica) have arrived in Georgia having been procured through COVAX. Medical staff will be vaccinated in the first phase, however, not all medics throughout the country as there are thousands of doctors in Georgia. The first vaccinations were administered on 15 March, and the event was broadcast on live television. On the first day, 668 people were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and 4,202 medical workers were registered to get vaccinated. Around 70 000 medical workers are eligible for vaccination. In total, 82 facilities have been selected as vaccination centres. On 24 March 2021, 29,250 doses of the US-German Pfizer/BioNtech coronavirus vaccine were delivered. In the next phase, those aged 65 years and over will be vaccinated. Citizens can register for vaccination online via booking.moh.gov.ge or call the vaccination information hotline on 15 22 and chose whether they have the Pfizer or AstraZenica vaccine. For medical workers and people aged 65 years and over who live in Tskhinvali and Abkhazia regions will be able to receive Covid-19 vaccinations on Tbilisi-controlled territory.
Through COVAX, Georgia should receive the Pfizer, AstraZenica, and Johnson&Johnson vaccines. The goal is to vaccinate at least 60% of Georgia's population by the end of this year (https://bit.ly/3pnAkNk). The Head of the NCDC has said that if 1,600,000 people are vaccinated in Georgia, life could return to normal. However, as Georgia begins to roll out its vaccination plan, the public remains hesitant. Polls suggest that only 35% would choose to receive a vaccine if given the option right now, while 53% said they would not (https://agenda.ge/en/news/2021/782).
Individuals receiving either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines against Covid-19 will have to stay at clinics for 45 minutes afterwards, instead of 30 minutes previously, for observation in case of any adverse events. If any side effects occur there will be at least three crews of medical workers on site to respond, but if the demand increases more crews will be available there. From March 2021, vaccination will continue only in clinics with intensive care units (ICUs). The decision was made after 27-year-old Georgian nurse Megi Bakradze reportedly went into anaphylactic shock and died after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine on 18 March 2021.
The priority groups targeted on the vaccination plan are in three phases:
Phase 1A - Personnel from healthcare sector; residents and staff of long term care facilities; and people over 75 years of age and above (7% of the population)
Phase 1B – People aged 65-74 years and essential workers (7% of the population)
Phase 2 – People aged 55-64 years and any adults aged 18-54 living with chronic conditions (12% of the population)
Phase 3 – Everyone else (34% of the population).
Mass Covid-19 immunisation is expected to start in Georgia in July, but will remain voluntary. From 5 April people aged 55 years and over became eligible for vaccination. A pre-registration portal has been set up to obtain information on the number of people wishing to be vaccinated. Any person who received both doses of the Coronavirus vaccine can get a Vaccination Certificate. The next priority groups are Georgian government officials and members of parliament followed by the tourism and hospitality sector, public transport drivers and ticket controllers.
Registration for the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine began on 27 April 2021. The immunization process will kick off on May 4. Sinopharm will be the third available Covid-19 vaccine for the Georgian population after AstraZeneca and Pfizer. From 27 April, people aged over 18 can register to receive the Sinopharm vaccine – the first person to receive it was the head of the NCDC Amiran Gamkrelidze. From 4 May, this vaccine is available in 30 medical facilities around the country, while a further 44 other medical facilities will be added to the list shortly. Georgia has received the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines so far. The country is expecting one million doses of Pfizer vaccines in the summer. Georgia is holding negotiations to receive Moderna and Novovax vaccines in the near future.
Georgian, Ukrainian and Moldovan PMs sent a joint letter to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to request the EUs support in acquiring coronavirus vaccines. The prime ministers asked the EU to include the Eastern Partnership states in its vaccine sharing mechanism.
As of 8 June 2021, on average about 5000 people are vaccinated daily and 178,738 had received at least one dose. However, the target for immunization of at least 60% of the adult population by the end of the year required vaccination from 20 to 25 thousand people daily. One million doses of coronavirus vaccine will be delivered to Georgia in the first two weeks of July and the vaccination centres are preparing for the mass vaccination campaign. Vaccination sites are being set up in shopping malls and mobile vaccination teams are being set up in readiness for the roll-out in July. COVID-19 vaccinations are now also freely available to people living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia without the need for online registration. The Ministry is going to offer incentives to fully vaccinated citizens, who will be exempt from mandatory testing.