Clayton State vaccinates 600 students, staff in race to beat COVID-19

 Clayton State University volunteers help vaccinate university students, staff, and family in Morrow Friday, April 02, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Clayton State University volunteers help vaccinate university students, staff, and family in Morrow Friday, April 02, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Toddrick Echols rolled up his sleeve Friday with his infant daughter Milay in mind.

After months of keeping her protected from friends and families because of COVID-19, he and his wife, Mya Richardson-Echols, are hoping Milay can make her debut now that her parents and others in their social circle are getting vaccinated against the virus.

“We have a newborn who nobody has met yet, so we’re hoping with the vaccine everybody can get on board and meet her,” Echols said after getting round 1 of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine at Clayton State University on Friday. His wife, the director of student housing at the school, gets her second shot Monday.

“We’re excited that she can be exposed to the breathing world,” Toddrick Echols said of Milay.

Clayton State on Friday held a mass drive-thru vaccination of students, staff and their families — inoculating around 600 people. It was 100 more than originally planned, said Polly Parks, director of University Health Services.

Interest was so great that the school has already planned a second mass vaccination for 400 people on Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. It, too, will be offered as a drive-thru event.

“We have had vaccinations indoors at our University Center, but that involves a temperature check, it involves people parking and walking in,” Parks said. “Many of our family members ... have walkers or they walk more slowly or are wheelchair-bound.

“This way they just stay in their vehicle and we come to you. That also eliminates the social distance concern.”

Clayton State has about 7,700 students and 500 faculty.

Vaccinations have picked up across the state in recent days after Gov. Brian Kemp expanded eligibility earlier this week to anyone 16 and older. Mass vaccination sites such as those at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Delta Air Lines Museum allow greater numbers of people to receive shots in one sitting.

Researchers believe adding college students to the ranks of the vaccinated could help avoid the spread of deadlier variants of the disease. Since June, infection rates among those 18 to 24 have been higher than other groups, according to a recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alisa Anderson, an integrated studies senior with a concentration in African-American studies, received her second Pfizer shot Friday with a sense of relief. Her 15-year-old son has asthma and she and he have had to curtail activities because the coronavirus is more dangerous to people with underlying health issues.

“I didn’t want to chance giving something to him,” she said. “Now we can travel and maybe do more things without all the anxiety.”

Otis Onuoha, who received his second shot Friday, said one of his first plans is to visit two nieces who recently had babies, one in College Park and the other in Decatur. His siblings also are getting vaccinated, giving him hope that soon he can at least have a sense of normalcy around family.

“All things being equal, in the next month or so we should be able to get together and hug one another again,” he said.

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