GAINESVILLE, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — Long term care workers and residents are next in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Governor Brian Kemp and health officials were there as the first workers received vaccines at PruittHealth in Gainesville.

Jonathan Harris, a senior certified nursing assistant, was the first staff member vaccinated there. “It gives me a measure of hope, hope for a better tomorrow, it gives me hope for my residents,” said Harris.

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Governor Kemp gave the latest update on COVID-19 distribution outside the facility. “Today, we’re proud to be here in Gainesville, as the next step of that partnership gets underway here in Georgia,” he said.

Officials credit President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed and a partnership with CVS and Walgreens for the distribution.

“Across the country, no group has been hit harder by the virus than the residents and staff of our long term facilities,” said Kemp.

“We feel like now we’re getting involved in the offensive and not the defensive,” said Georgia Department of Community Health Frank Berry.

Georgia Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey says the vaccines are giving providers a ray of hope. “It’s just amazing to see people’s faces and excitement, tears of joy,” Toomey said, explaining workers will get the vaccine first, then residents. “We’ve already today received additional allocations of Pfizer, and we’re expecting Moderna vaccine as well.”

Toomey says long term facility staff and residents represent 5% of COVID-19 cases in Georgia and 37% of COVID-related deaths in the state. “We hope with these vaccines we will begin to change those statistics,” she said.

Health officials expect to start distributing it to older people and essential workers by the end of January. The general public could begin receiving it by next summer.

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Officials are still urging everyone to continue following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.