County-by-County: Here’s how districts are working to vaccinate their teachers

ATLANTA — Monday was a big day for teachers and school staff as many started receiving their COVID-19 vaccine shots.

It’s also the day shipments of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine began to arrive in Georgia. Teachers will be the first to get that vaccine, which is the only single-dose vaccine made available in the U.S. so far.

Gov. Brian Kemp toured a mass vaccination site in Gwinnett County Monday that hoped to get at least 600 teachers vaccinated. Kemp said opening up vaccination eligibility to a new population is a step in the right direction.

“We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel to getting back to normal,” Kemp said. “I’m excited about that.”

Kemp praised efforts by some counties for setting up vaccines this week and into the weekend.

Gwinnett County

The Gwinnett County school district kicked off vaccinating teachers on Monday at the old Sears at Gwinnett Place Mall.

The district, which is the largest in the state, has about 25,000 people on staff. District officials said just over half of its staff expressed interest in the school organized shots.

[SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Vaccine in Georgia]

On Monday, Channel 2′s Steve Gehlbach was at the mall, where about a third of the people in line were teachers. The site plans to make 600 vaccines available for educators a day, although Kemp said he hopes to increase that number as the state gets more supplies.

If 600 vaccines are given to teachers a day, it will take about two weeks to get all Gwinnett teachers that want it the vaccine.

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Emily Brincks, who teaches second graders at Suwanee Elementary School, was one of the first teachers to get vaccinated in Gwinnett. She said she was contacted last week, set up her appointment and came right from school in the middle of the day.

“I have 30 students in person, and it’s so difficult to make sure you’re social distancing with 7-year-olds sometimes,” Brincks said. “I’m making sure I’m doing everything to protect myself and my students.”

Rachel Ash teaches at Parkview High School. She said she’s ready to get vaccinated.

“Most of the teachers I know are excited to get their shots. I think there are a few who are a little bit weary,” Ash said.

With teachers now in line, Ash hopes that means a normal school day is just around the corner.

“I’m really excited that I’m going to get the first shot,” Ash said.

Chad Wasdin, spokesperson for the Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton Public Health Department, said the county will set aside vaccinations for teachers at private schools soon.

Gwinnett employees will get an email notification a week before their appointment with the date and time of their appointment.

[LINK: Where to find the COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia]

Cobb County

In Cobb County, Channel 2′s Chris Jose learned that Cobb educators can get their vaccine during a 4-day event at Jim Miller Park on March 19 and 20 and March 26, 27. That means the next two Fridays will be virtual days (instead of Wednesday).

Cobb and Douglas Public Health officials told Jose that logistics are still being worked out, but the event will be drive-thru.

The school district said 6,500 teachers have expressed an interest in getting vaccinated.

Amanda McCarthy’s children are students in the district.

“I think it’s wonderful that teachers are getting the vaccine,” McCarthy said. “Finally.”

Dr. Janet Memark with Cobb and Douglas Public Health said they hope to vaccinate thousands of teachers in just a few days at the park, but teachers can sign up with other providers as well.

A district spokesperson said official details about the vaccination plan will go out soon.

Clayton County

Clayton County plans to vaccinate between 100 and 150 teachers a day, district officials told Channel 2′s Tom Jones.

The district only vaccinated five people Monday in an effort to keep from overwhelming the system on the first day. More than 250 employees had signed up.

Clayton County teachers are getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose.

The teachers who did get the vaccine said they are ready to be back in class.

“I’m a special education teacher and these kids, they need to interact,” Colette Taylor said.

Enrique Lopez Sampson was the first to get the vaccine in the district and received the star treatment. Sampson said he was grateful.

“After a year of being cooped up (it’s great),” Sampson said. “It’s a huge relief. It goes to show how much care there is for employees in the district.”

The district has partnered with the Clayton County Fire Department’s medical staff to inoculate as many employees as it can as it prepares to bring teachers, staff and students back to class.

Clayton County has kept students out of class since the pandemic hit last year. It is now preparing to bring them back in phases, starting with K-5th grade on April 12.

Those teachers, bus drivers, nutritionists and other staff will be vaccinated first.

Atlanta Public Schools

APS will vaccinate thousands of employees as part of the Community Vaccination Center at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium later this month. Events will be held on March 24, 26 and 27.

The district has secured up to 8,000 shots.

“This plan takes into account the availability of a large allotment of the vaccine, which FCBOH expects to arrive on March 22nd. Our APS vaccination events begin on the first day available for the administration of the vaccine,” officials said.

On Monday, Kemp criticized the district’s decision to delay by a few weeks. Superintendent Lisa Herring fired back, saying in a statement, in part:

“Governor Kemp’s comments today are very unfortunate and do not reflect the planning, advocacy, and commitment Atlanta Public Schools (APS) has to protect its students and staff. APS has been a state leader on the COVID-19 issue in public schools from day one. We were not only one of the first systems to go virtual to protect our staff and students, we were the first to use COVID-19 surveillance testing in our system to detect COVID-19 and reduce its spread. We have been working with the Fulton County Board of Health (FCBOH) since December to vaccinate all educators and, as Governor Kemp should know, are scheduled to provide vaccines on the first day the allocations are available in Fulton County.”

DeKalb County

DeKalb County schools said 31 nurses are now trained to vaccinate teachers. The district is partnering with the county board of health to come up with a vaccine plan.

Fulton County

The Fulton County School District announced Monday that they will launch Project Vaccinate 2021 starting on March 22. The district is working with the county to provide all employees who choose to have the vaccine over the course of two weeks.

First doses will be administered March 22-27. Second doses will be given April 12 - 17.

School personnel will get their vaccination date by level/zone.

The district plans to switch all schools to remote learning for part of each of the vaccine weeks. Elementary schools will be on remote learning March 22-24. Middle schools will be remote March 24-25. High schools will be remote March 25-26. All schools will be remote the week of April 12.

“FCS will remain in remote the week after spring break to allow the vaccines to be given and to guard against a post spring break surge,” school officials said.

The district said it’s sending about 30 nurses to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is a mass vaccination site. The county health department secured space for them to vaccinate only Fulton County teachers.

Douglas County

The Douglas County School District is in somewhat of a holding pattern right now until they learn when they’re getting a shipment of vaccines and the amount.

The district has targeted the nearly 15,000 employees who want a shot. They also plan to vaccinate workers in the Sears parking lot at Arbor Place Mall.

Coweta County

The Coweta County School District plans to finalize their plan to vaccinate school employees early this week. The district has identified more than 1,800 employees who want the vaccine.

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