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School systems prepare for teacher vaccinations
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Northeast Georgia Health System holds their first COVID-19 vaccine clinic Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, NGHS Corporate Plaza for those 65 and older. - photo by Scott Rogers

As phase 1A+ of COVID-19 vaccine administration begins, school systems are preparing to administer vaccines to teachers when they become eligible. 

In Gainesville City Schools, some school employees age 65 and older will be vaccinated soon through a partnership with the DPH. The department reached out to the school system last week to coordinate a date to vaccinate employees in that age group, said Priscilla Collins, chief professional services officer at Gainesville City Schools. 

Based on responses from a survey of employees in the age 65 and older group, the people who will be vaccinated include about 200 employees along with those employees’ spouses, parents and caregivers.

The school system is not mandating vaccines, but about half of the system's 1,000 employees surveyed in December expressed interest in receiving a vaccine when it’s available, Collins said.

Hall County Schools hopes to schedule administration of the phase 1A+ vaccine for employees sometime in February, said Stan Lewis, director of community relations and athletics, in an email. However, vaccination is not required for school employees.

With regards to reopening plans, Hall County Schools hopes that vaccinating teachers will slow the spread of COVID-19 among school employees.

“Our challenge lately has been an increase in absences of our team members because of positive COVID-19 diagnoses or quarantines as a result of being exposed. If we can minimize that number, our chances of continuing to provide in-person instruction for our students increase dramatically, and we are then able to provide them with the services they need to be healthy and successful,” said Lewis in an email.

Similarly, Gainesville City Schools is keeping tabs on case numbers, community spread and those who get the vaccine before deciding on reopening plans.

“We would love it if we could open schools face-to-face in the fall, but I think it’s a little too early to say right now,” Collins said.