Almost one year after local schools shut down, systems will be vaccinating staff against the novel coronavirus that upended the way teachers work and students learn.
Schools shut down locally March 13. Statewide, school staff members are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines starting March 8. Both Hall and Gainesville school districts are scheduling clinics in the coming days to make that happen.
Hall employees will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at two vaccination sites, one on the north and one on the south end of the county. The district will release more details on the vaccination site locations later this week, according to a news release.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one shot instead of the two required by Pfizer's and Moderna's, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday.
The FDA said one dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.
All Hall County employees, including custodians, bus drivers, clerical staff, administrators and substitutes are eligible to receive the vaccine. Priority, however, will go to those with underlying health conditions or to caregivers of those who are medically and developmentally disabled, district officials say. Next in line are “self-contained” teachers and paraprofessionals.
The district is encouraging employees to consider getting the vaccine and to consult their health care provider, according to the release.
A more detailed schedule will be shared later this week.
In Gainesville, there will be a “professional learning day” March 12 allowing teachers to be vaccinated while students have the day off. The system also expects to give Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
“The COVID-19 vaccine, coming soon to a school system near you,” Jeremy Williams,
Gainesville City School System superintendent said during Monday night’s school board meeting.
The vaccinations will take place starting at 8 a.m. in the Gainesville Middle School gymnasium. All school-based employees are eligible for the vaccine, however, spouses are not, Williams said. The employees include substitute teachers and student interns.
About 500 employees said yes to receiving the vaccination according to a survey sent out, Williams said. An additional informational email will be sent out in case other employees would also like to be vaccinated.
Vaccinations will be given in 15-minute increments. Employees will be allotted a time based on their last name. The last vaccination appointment is scheduled at 11:15 a.m. Employees must bring their Gainesville ID badge, driver’s license or photo ID, insurance card or Medicare card, and a completed consent form.
Employees shouldn’t arrive more than 15 minutes before their scheduled time and must wear a mask and socially distance, Williams said. Each scheduled group will be placed on one side of the bleachers prior to vaccination. Afterward, they will be moved to the opposite side of the bleachers for the required 15-minute observation period.
Eight nurses within the school system will be administering the vaccine. Williams said they expect 200 vaccinations in about four hours. The vaccination date is scheduled on a Friday to also allow for recuperation, in the case of side effects, Williams said.
Although Williams said the school system feels confident the vaccine shipment will arrive on time, there is the possibility that school will be in session on March 12.
“We’re coming up on a year from shutting down, not knowing what’s happening in the community state and country to now reopening our schools and receiving the vaccine. To get to this point alone has been a major accomplishment,” Williams said.
The Associated Press contributed.