Cedar students receive COVID-19 vaccines at school drive

Nurses from St. Mary’s Hospital, present in partnership with the Innovative Health Institute (IHI) and Stacy Dean of Family Connection-Communities in Schools of Athens, vaccinated Cedar Shoals students against COVID-19 during a vaccine drive on Oct. 20.

Held in the auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 28 people received the Pfizer vaccine. Both students who had registered online and walk-ins were welcome, as long as they had permission from a guardian. 

Brenda Woods, a registered nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital, administered shots. 

“I was hoping for it to be a little bit busier, but every student that walks through that door makes me happy,” Woods said. “Before you know it those statistics go up. You can get to the end result in many different ways, as long as you get there safely.”

Woods came out of retirement to work part-time vaccinating community members in multiple settings, including Tuckston United Methodist Church and the county jail. 

“Personally, vaccinating people is a chance to realize how blessed I am. I have the opportunity to use my personal skills for the children, who are our future,” Woods said. “If you’re sick or on a ventilator, how can you go to law school, medical school? It goes beyond right now.”

GETTING THE SHOT: St. Mary’s Hospital nurse Brenda Woods places a band-aid on the arm of freshman Jordan Jones at the Cedar Shoals vaccine drive, on Oct. 20. “They (students) are not just protecting themselves, they’re protecting their home. We don’t know how many of these students have grandparents at home or siblings that have other underlying health problems,” Woods said. “It (the COVID-19 vaccine) protects everyone.” Photo by Melanie Frick.

Students vaccinated at the drive received gift cards and snacks, and were submitted into a $500 scholarship drawing. Incentives were provided entirely by community donations from IHI, Family Connection, the East Athens Development Corporation, Athens Downtown Development Authority and Athens alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. Volunteers from the University of Georgia’s Doctors Without Borders student chapter checked in students.

Later in the week, on Oct. 22, Cedar teachers and staff already fully vaccinated had the opportunity to receive their COVID-19 booster vaccine.

A drive similar to Oct. 20’s was conducted at Clarke Central High School the next day. Students who received their first dose at the drives should come back for second doses, which will be available at Cedar on Nov. 10 and Clarke Central on Nov. 11.

In addition to providing second doses, Dean hopes Family Connection will be able to host drives at elementary and middle schools once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children under 12.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been available to ages 12 and up since March. Still, approximately 75.8% of Athens residents ages 15-19 are not vaccinated. In order to assuage misconceptions that have prevented students from receiving the vaccine, IHI held an information session before the drive last week, on Oct. 13, outside of Cedar’s cafeteria. Dr. Diane Dunston, pediatrician, addressed students’ concerns.

“Students had misconceptions because of lack of knowledge. When you don’t know, you have fears,” Dean said. “We took two days, one for Cedar and one for Central, to try to educate our students and let them feel comfortable talking to us and establish a rapport with Dr. Dunston. It’s a lack of knowledge where the fear factor comes in.”

Dunston administered the vaccine to freshman Fred Lumpkin. He says his relationship with Dunston, who delivered him and played an integral role in his upbringing, motivated him to attend the drive. 

As for Lumpkin’s advice to other students getting the vaccine, he says “don’t look.”

If you missed the vaccine drive, doses are available on the east side at IHI and the Hilsman Health Center.

Violet Calkin

Senior Violet Calkin is Co-Editor-in-Chief for BluePrints Magazine. She plans to major in creative writing or journalism to become a professional writer or English professor. Calkin loves to read, be outside, and drink coffee at Jittery Joes. Her goals this year are to assist her peers in writing stories and ensure that they are enthusiastic about expanding coverage as a magazine staff. She appreciates the opportunity to unearth interesting topics and share them in a compelling way.