Local schools in Georgia are gearing up to give teachers and staff doses of COVID-19 vaccine starting next week using a mix of on-campus curbside administration, large-scale distribution events and help from health clinics.
Teachers and school staff will be eligible for the vaccine and have first dibs next week at an 83,000-dose shipment of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, as well as remaining supplies of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, according to state officials.
Many school districts plan to inoculate teachers and staff who want the vaccine late next week and over the weekend, aiming to give them some recovery time in the event of possible mild side effects such as temporary flu-like symptoms and pain where the shot was given.
State officials are letting local school administrators decide their own logistics for administering vaccines rather than imposing state rules, marking an approach that several local superintendents praised at a meeting Thursday to outline plans for providing shots and boosting confidence among hesitant teachers.
“We really appreciate the trust in us to develop plans to work for our system,” said Dougherty County School System Superintendent Kenneth Dyer.
Atlanta Public Schools, where about 66% of staff have said they want the vaccine, has asked for more than 800,000 doses and plans to hold a “vaccination event” later this month to administer them, said Superintendent Lisa Herring.
Other districts like Calhoun City Schools and Henry County Schools are set to conduct on-campus vaccine events via curbside shots and in school buildings with nurses trained to administer the vaccines.
Cherokee County schools plan to host an “arena-style” vaccine event next Thursday and Friday with help from the local health department to the roughly 50% of the district’s teachers who have shown willingness to take the vaccine, said Superintendent Brian Hightower.
“We’re ready to have this event and make it a successful event, and at the same time continue instruction in our schools” Hightower said. “We want not only our schools to be open but we want them to remain open.”
The school rollout comes after Gov. Brian Kemp last week expanded who is eligible for the vaccine to teachers, school staff, adults with behavioral and developmental disabilities and the parents of children with complex medical conditions. Those groups may start receiving the vaccine on Monday.
State School Superintendent Richard Woods said vaccinating teachers and staff is critical to returning all Georgia K-12 students to in-person classes. Currently, around 30% of students are still receiving online-only instruction, he said.
“We’re looking at how we can make a significant dent in the last third of the school year,” Woods said. “We still have work to do but it’s a big opportunity for us as a state to look forward and be prepared.”
“It’s a good day for us as a state.”