Savannah Classical Academy first in district to offer Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to educators


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — On Monday, Savannah Classical Academy became the first school in the district to administer Johnson & Johnson vaccines to teachers and staff.

Executive director Barry Lollis led 46 of the public charter school’s educators and staff members in receiving the Janssen COVID-19 shot.

The United States Food and Drug Administration approved the third vaccine option on Feb. 27.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced that Georgia teachers and school staff would be eligible to be vaccinated beginning March 8.

Pharmacists with the Skidaway Island-based Village Walk Pharmacy provided the single-dose vaccines administered at SCA on Monday morning.

The pharmacy received its first shipment of the Janssen vaccine on March 5.

Educators lined up for temperature checks and screening questions before being led to the vaccination room. 

“Just over 82% of our faculty will be vaccinated,” Lollis said, adding that a few additional faculty and staff members plan to get the shot at a later date.

“We’ll be above 90% vaccinated within the next couple of weeks,” said the executive director.

He likened the brief experience to getting the flu or tetanus vaccination. “You feel it, but in about a minute, it’s gone,” Lollis said.

By going first, Lollis says he hoped to calm some of the concerns teachers had about getting vaccinated.

“I thought it was important for me to go first to kind of lead the faculty and show that if I’m willing to do that, then that will help them not be so nervous,” he said.

Scott Pierce, who co-owns Coastal Care Partners, says his company has partnered with Village Walk Pharmacy and the Chatham County Health Department to help begin administering vaccines to the community, including local schools like SCA.

Village Walk Pharmacy owner Dr. Jason Conley contacted Pierce and his wife, Amy, about three months ago to collaborate.

“He advised us that he was going to be starting a vaccine clinic on Skidaway, and asked if we could help him,” Pierce said. 

While Coastal Care Partners has handled the logistics and volunteer efforts, Conley’s pharmacy has supplied the drugs.

“It’s been a great synthesis between the two of us to really get these clinics going,” Pierce said. 

“We’ve vaccinated over 7,000 at the Skidaway clinic since we started, and now, rolling right into the education community has been just a natural fit,” he added.

SCA reopened with an option for in-person learning in August of 2020, and officials say they’ve rigorously enforced COVID-19 prevention measures since then.

Lollis says the goal is to remain open, and having teachers receive vaccines will further allow the K-12 school to achieve that goal. 

“I’m proud of them for being the leaders in [getting vaccinated],” Lollis said, adding, “We want to be here for our students, and if this helps us stay that way, then we’re committed to doing that.”

The governor’s office has provided additional guidance regarding March 8’s vaccination expansion to include adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers; parents of children with complex medical conditions or who are at high risk of COVID-19 complications; and teachers and childcare staff meeting certain criteria.

For the latest information on vaccine distribution plans, visit this link.

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