Clayton Schools plans December vaccine drives for youngest students

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Clayton County Schools will host vaccination drives in December to try to persuade parents to inoculate children 5-11 years old.

During a countywide panel discussion Wednesday, Clayton Schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley said the county’s youngest can receive recently approved Pfizer vaccine for their age at two upcoming drives.

On Dec. 3, the district will host a drive from 3-6 p.m. at the International Center of the Morrow Annex. That will be followed by another vaccination drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 4 at Lovejoy Middle School. Another event is set for Dec. 11 at Drew High School with times to be announced later.

“We hope that our parents will bring them to these vaccination events and allow them to experience what it feels like to get the COVID-19 vaccination,” Beasley said. He added that he did not plan to mandate students be vaccinated unless ordered to do so by Georgia health officials.

The push comes as COVID-19 infections in Clayton County schools have leveled off since September, when the district was temporarily closing buildings almost daily because of a late summer spread of the more infectious delta variant. Unlike other metro Atlanta school systems, Clayton has not relaxed its mask mandate, which still must be worn at all times in buildings.

Vaccination rates in Clayton County also have lagged behind other metro Atlanta communities, with only 43% of residents fully vaccinated as of Nov. 4. The southside county is majority Black, a community that has been disproportionately impacted by the disease.

“We can do better and that is one of the reasons why this is being put together so that we can educate the public,” Dr. Olatanwa Adewale, an epidemiologist with the Clayton County Health District, told the panel.

The school system, which is working with the Clayton Health District and the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services on the vaccination drives, said about 71% of staff have been vaccinated and has distributed 2,500 vaccines.

Angela Horrison-Collier, the school district’s director of student services, said while a monetary incentive to get the shots won’t be available to students as it was with employees, there will gift cards for those who participate.

“We are giving away prizes,” she said.