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Hall County Schools holding two vaccine clinics as vaccination rates lag
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Sandra Gulle, of the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, administers a vaccine Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at the Gainesville Civic Center during an event sponsored by the City of Gainesville with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and dozens of other organizations. The event is open to all Gainesville-Hall County residents and no identification is required. COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots will be administered free of charge to everyone with no appointment necessary. - photo by Scott Rogers

Vaccines, boosters and flu shots will be offered to the public at two Hall County high school basketball games this month, as the school district continues its fight against COVID-19 amid lagging vaccination rates. 

The first clinic will be held Dec. 7 at the North Hall High school in the old gymnasium. The second clinic will be held Dec. 14 at East Hall High School in the ROTC room of the Fine Arts Building. Both clinics will be from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. 

The first 150 people who receive the vaccine at each event will be given a $25 gift card, thanks to a grant from the North Georgia Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. The vaccines will be provided by Wauka Mountain Pharmacy. Gift cards will not be given for flu shots. 

Anyone 5 and older may receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but those under the age of 18 must have a parent present to be vaccinated. Bring identification and a copy of your insurance. Individuals with no insurance will be administered a COVID-19 vaccine free of charge. Those receiving a COVID-19 booster should bring a copy of the COVID-19 vaccine card.

The district has a total of 15 COVID-19 cases as of Dec. 3, according to data on its website. There are 40 people under modified quarantine (close contacts who are wearing masks in school), and 27 are quarantining at home. 

District officials previously estimated that roughly half of its employees were vaccinated, though it does not require employees to share their vaccination status. An updated estimate could not be provided. 

At the county level, 45% of Hall County residents are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. 

“We need those numbers to be higher to make our community safer,” said Andrea Williamson-English, lead school nurse for the District. “We really want to help people understand that the COVID vaccine is safe and effective, and it is very, very effective against a severe illness and death.” 

When asked if she has grown frustrated that more people in the school district aren’t getting vaccinated, she said she is not terribly surprised. 

“I think I expected this,” she said. “We recognize that everybody’s in a different place, everybody’s circumstances are different, everybody has different belief systems. … I feel like we're moving along. I would just like to see us nudge a little faster and be part of the solution.” 

Superintendent Will Schofield echoed her sentiments. 

“We continue to believe vaccines are a positive step toward getting ahead of this thing and will continue to support that,” he said. “I realize it's a very personal decision, but we believe it's the most powerful tool we have.” 

The clinics were planned well before the emergence of the Omicron variant, officials said, and the district will continue to stay the course by balancing safety and normality. 

“The reality is that this thing changes almost daily, and it's probably going to be here for the foreseeable future,” Schofield said. “And we're going to try to be safe and balance that with having some sort of a normal experience.”