Georgia school teachers to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine starting March 8

Published 11:05 am Friday, February 26, 2021

by 

Capitol Beat News Service

 

Teachers, school staff and certain other vulnerable groups in Georgia will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting on March 8, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday.

Vaccines will be available for pre-K and K-12 school teachers and staff, Kemp said. Georgia adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as the parents of children who have complex medical conditions, will also be eligible on March 8.

Kemp traced his decision to expand vaccines to teachers on encouraging signs of increasing vaccine production from the Biden administration and the new Johnson & Johnson-brand vaccine that won high safety marks from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week.

“Today, we will be taking another step to protect the most vulnerable and get Georgia back to normal,” Kemp said at a news conference Thursday.

Professors and staff at Georgia colleges and universities will not be on the March 8 list of newly eligible vaccine recipients since they are “dealing with an older population” of adult students who have more options to avoid infection than teachers of younger students in grades pre-K through 12, Kemp said.

The governor stressed he wants all Georgia public schools to return for in-person classes before year’s end as teachers are vaccinated, saying online classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic have dampened students’ education progress for too long.

“Virtual schooling is leaving too many children behind and parents at their wits’ end,” Kemp said. “We must have students back in the classroom, five days a week.”

The upcoming vaccine expansion for teachers drew praise from State School Superintendent Richard Woods, who called it a critical step in returning Georgia kids to in-person schooling.

“This is an important step in ensuring all Georgia students have access to in-person instruction and ensuring the safety of students, staff and families,” Woods said. “It has been an incredibly challenging year for educators and families alike, but I believe we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Teachers and other soon-eligible groups will join health-care workers, nursing home residents and staff, first responders and Georgians ages 65 and older who have qualified for the vaccine for several weeks.

Kemp noted Georgia has doled out nearly 1.9 million vaccines so far, including to more than 800,000 people ages 65 and older who have received at least one of the needed two doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Newly eligible teachers and other Georgians clambering for the vaccine could still face headaches in scheduling appointments for their shots given the state’s limited allotment, Kemp said. Currently, state officials are receiving 198,000 doses a week from the federal government.

“We will continue to see more demand than supply,” Kemp said.

If all goes well with the March 8 rollout to teachers, Kemp said he will move to expand vaccine eligibility again in late March to additional groups that tend to be more vulnerable to contracting the virus.

Local school administrators will be largely left to their own to decide how teachers and staff should receive their shots, including whether to host vaccines on-campus at their schools, Kemp said.

State officials are also working with hospitals and health clinics to decide which parents with children who have complex medical conditions will receive the vaccine, said Georgia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey.

“We are doing that in conjunction with providers who care for those children,” Toomey said on Thursday.

Officials stressed Georgians should go ahead and pre-register now for a vaccine appointment on the state’s sign-up website, even if they are not yet eligible. The website, https://myvaccinegeorgia.com/, will automatically alert people once they’re eligible and will schedule an appointment.

Roughly 812,000 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgia as of Thursday afternoon, with nearly 185,000 more reported positive antigen tests indicating likely positive results. The virus has killed 14,989 Georgians.

More News

Fentanyl Awareness PSA

Charittie Walker awarded SGTC Smallwood-Sondron Law Enforcement Academy scholarship

Crisp Regional breaks ground on 16th Avenue facility

Beal-Shephard tries to weather the storm over City HallBy Neil B. McGahee Managing Editor Cordele City Commissioner Vesta Beal-Shephard was elected in 2001 to represent the people of Ward One. By all accounts, she has done a very good job of relating to the citizens living in her ward. Recently, however, a dark cloud has settled over City Hall. From the first day of his term, newly-elected commission chairman Joshua Antwan Deriso began taking verbal snipes on social media at some of the other commissioners. Shephard says she just ignored it at first but on April 9, Deriso posted on Facebook “…It was much anticipated for Comm. Rainey to be against change. Comission (sp) Shephard fights against me the hardest…does not know much about government at all…She needs to be voted out next year 2023.” A few days later, he posted live saying …“I am totally over the games, the political stuff…a lot of people want to make what I said about Commissioner Shephard something about disagreement with Commissioner Shephard. It was her ignorance and short-sightedness…not able to understand what we can do as a government. “When there were people in charge that didn’t look like us…white people… she didn’t question anything. Since I became chairman, she has blocked everything…you don’t know what you are doing; you don’t know what you are talking about.” Shephard winces as she listens to Deriso. “I don’t do drama and I don’t do pettiness,” she said. “I refute everything he has said about me. I’m not angry with Josh; I am somewhat disturbed that he has targeted me, a citizen of Cordele; a black female…he accused me of loving white folks. Well I do love white folks, and brown folks and black folks — Haitian, Jamaican, Indian, Cuban, Mexican — I have no discrimination to anyone. My job is to facilitate for people in this ward and when I vote, I vote my conviction.” Shephard said she doesn’t know why Deriso has such hard feelings against her. “It’s so sad, I have to say that I never saw it coming,” she said. ”But I have to voice my opinion.” But one sad thing has evolved from this. “This is the first time I have been discriminated against by a fellow commissioner,” she said. “I used to invite people to my home if they had a problem. But I had to stop that. If you want to meet with me, we will have to go to a public area or to my office at city hall. I am going to keep my distance for the simple reason that I don’t want to endanger myself.