More Georgia educators want to get vaccinated than initial estimates suggested, but the governor’s office says the state’s allocation of COVID-19 vaccines will grow considerably as teachers and other school employees become eligible Monday.
The state has earmarked all 83,000 of Georgia’s first shipment of the new single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the roughly 250,000 employees working in kindergarten through high school who will become eligible to receive vaccines, said Ryan Loke, deputy chief operating officer for Gov. Brian Kemp’s office. And that’s not all: “Our total first doses next week, which is new doses that aren’t here right now, not including J and J, is 223,790,” he said. In addition, private providers have supplies of their own.
“So I’m confident that we’ll be able to administer doses next week in a significant amount,” Loke said.
Loke was speaking in a call Thursday with reporters and a handful of superintendents who were tapped in January to roll out model vaccination plans that the state’s 180 school districts and charter schools might use.
Many will rely on local health departments to manage the process, but some will leverage relationships with hospitals, pediatric clinics or emergency medical services groups.
Some, such as Gwinnett and Fulton counties, among the state’s largest, will send staff off campus to big vaccination events.
Others, such as the tiny Early County School System in southwest Georgia, will go door to door vaccinating teachers, Superintendent Bronwyn Ragan-Martin said. “They will get their vaccinations right there, outside their classrooms.”
Henry County, a larger suburban district south of Atlanta, is basically becoming a health care provider, having applied to be a “closed point of distribution,” Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis said.
The district’s 13 nurses will jab arms at a school training facility under the medical direction of a local pharmacist, while school clerks and social workers help with logistics.
Not all districts are starting vaccinations Monday.
Atlanta Public Schools is planning to start in the middle or latter part of March. The schools in Dougherty County, the South Georgia community that was an epicenter of COVID-19 deaths last spring, will start March 12, as will Calhoun City Schools in northwest Georgia, where Superintendent Michele Taylor worried about the vaccine supply.
“Our only concern is not knowing whether there was going to be enough,” she said, adding that the comments from the governor’s representative had eased her concerns.
Kemp had previously said a state Department of Education survey found only 45% of school employees wanted a shot. But by Thursday, that number had risen considerably. Loke, the governor’s staffer, said phone calls were made to sort out “discrepancies,” and as of Wednesday night, about 63% of 214,000 responding educators had said they wanted to get vaccinated — or 136,090 school employees.
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