Clarke County teachers and staff received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine today. Announced by Gov. Brian Kemp on Feb. 25, phase 1A+ of the COVID-19 vaccination efforts opened for teachers on March 8.
CCSD Director of Nursing Services Amy Roark and her team conducted a great deal of behind the scenes planning in anticipation of the governor’s announcement.
“When we received that phone call, we already had a plan in place, we already knew what these events were going to look like,” Roark said. “How many vaccine lanes and vaccinators we were going to have at each school site, how many people we needed to work traffic control and front desk registration, we had all of that mapped out ahead of time.”
The district hopes to vaccinate approximately 1,300 teachers and staff, sending half to the Clarke Central vaccination site and the other half to Cedar Shoals. The district’s partnership with the state Department of Public Health, or DPH, as well as a medical partnership between Augusta University and University of Georgia, is a crucial step in Clarke County’s ability to distribute vaccines rapidly.
“Between school nurses, medical students, our medical partnership and physicians, the DPH doesn’t have to send a huge number of people from their workforce. They can send a few people as needed to run the site, but we have our supplemental staff to help out with the effort.”
Although the choice between the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine was primarily based on supply availability, Roark favors the Pfizer vaccine.
“The Pfizer is actually preferred for a lot of reasons, the main one being that the second dose is 21 days (after the first) whereas the Moderna is 28 days. That means our teachers will be able to get that second dose sooner, which is already scheduled for March 31,” Roark said.
While about 1,300 of the approximate 2,300 CCSD teachers and staff are currently scheduled to receive the vaccine today, Roark says select staff members have already been offered the vaccine due to age, caregiver status or other factors that may have qualified them to receive a vaccine through DPH.
“Overall, we have been really pleased with the vaccine response. We have not encountered a large amount of vaccination hesitancy in our employees. It’s been a very positive response,” Roark said.
Roark is hopeful about the implications of teacher vaccination, and feels it is the precaution that will most decrease staff vulnerability.
“We put a lot of mitigation efforts in place,” Roark said, “We have nurses in every school and a robust contact tracing team, but I think that teachers will be most comfortable re-entering face-to-face learning when they have achieved immunity which should be two weeks after that second dose.”