Some Fulton Schools staff couldn’t get vaccine until district stepped in

A health care worker receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Since even the first shot appears to provide some protection against COVID-19, some experts believe that the shortest route to containing the virus is to disseminate the initial injections as widely as possible now. (Michael A. McCoy/The New York Times)
A health care worker receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Since even the first shot appears to provide some protection against COVID-19, some experts believe that the shortest route to containing the virus is to disseminate the initial injections as widely as possible now. (Michael A. McCoy/The New York Times)

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

Many have linked the health of schools to the health of the economy

So many Fulton County Schools’ staff members age 65 and older had trouble getting the COVID-19 vaccine that district officials had to get involved.

Superintendent Mike Looney have announced that the 2,000 eligible staff members would be offered the vaccine at a special event on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Now, teachers and staff — who come into contact with dozens of families a day through children attending in-person classes — won’t have to compete with the general public to get the drug. Eligible staff members’ spouses over age 65 will also be offered the vaccine.

At some points during this school year, a lack of teachers caused Fulton Schools to shut down live learning. District officials on Friday announced they would stop in-person instruction until Jan. 19 due to a surge in cases.

The vaccine is seen as the first step to recovering from the coronavirus.

The effects of the virus on education became all too real on March 13, when Fulton became the first school district in metro Atlanta to stop live instruction as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Early on, leaders feared what having children at home during school hours would do to workforces and the economy.

During the Fulton County Board of Commissioners meeting last week, commissioners encouraged the Fulton County Board of Health head Dr. Lynn Paxton to consider prioritizing vaccinations for school staff age 65 and older.

Paxton said the vaccine rollout was complicated because “public health was not notified until a couple of hours before the announcement was made” by Gov. Brian Kemp to expand vaccine protocols. Fulton’s county manager Dick Anderson said they had to “scramble” to put a plan together.

Officials started administering the vaccine to members of the general public age 65 and older this week. But, for many more Georgians, it has been a frustrating experience — especially for teachers and staff who need the vaccine to keep schools open.

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“That has been challenging because a lot of people have asked to be vaccinated,” Looney said.

The vaccination event for employees runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, he said. All appropriate staff will be notified and given instructions.

Looney also said he’s aware of some hesitancy to take the new drug, which is why he got the vaccine himself.

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