Georgia suspends vaccine shipments to practice that offered shots to teachers

A physician practice in rural northeast Georgia will not receive shipments of COVID-19 vaccines for six months — a state-imposed sanction after the group vaccinated school district employees, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

The Georgia Department of Public Health told the newspaper Jan. 27 that vaccine shipments to the Medical Center of Elberton are suspended until July 27. 

The newspaper reported Jan. 26 that the private practice offered to vaccinate all willing employees of the Elbert County School District, including teachers, bus drivers and administrators. About 40 percent of personnel seized the opportunity, but Georgia has not authorized the vaccination of teachers.

The state's current 1a+ phase includes healthcare workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, adults 65 years and older and their caregivers, and emergency personnel. 

"Moving to additional phases without approval from [the department of public health] is a violation of the vaccine provider agreement," a spokesperson for the state agency told the newspaper in an email Jan. 26. "If an investigation confirms that a vaccine provider is in violation of the provider agreement, the agreement can be rescinded, and the provider will no longer receive the vaccine."

Brooke McDowell, an administrator at the practice, told local NBC affiliate WYFF News 4 that the group worked with the school district to vaccinate a "small portion" of personnel, believing they were considered essential. 

The center has appealed the state's decision and is looking into getting the suspension overturned, WYFF News 4 reports.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. CT. An earlier version of this story mistakenly described the Medical Center of Elberton as a hospital. The facility is a private physician practice and not associated with Elbert Memorial Hospital, the Georgia Hospital Association confirms. 

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