ATLANTA — The governor's office is responding to a letter from nearly a dozen metro Atlanta superintendents who asked to be included in the current phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
In a letter obtained by 11Alive, the group asked Gov. Brian Kemp "in affirming that teachers are valued in Georgia" by allowing teachers and education staff to be included in the 1A category, in order to get the vaccine.
Currently, only healthcare workers, emergency personnel, and those 65 and older and their caregivers are being given the shot.
"Though our districts have chosen different paths and approaches to reopening this school year, we have all been unwavering in our belief that children need teachers and schools," the letter read. "As superintendents, we hear each day from families who implore us to not return to a full virtual model; likewise, we hear each day from teachers who are scared about the threat of COVID-19 to them and their loved ones."
The group of 11 superintendents wrote that the "longer we delay in vaccinating our teachers and school staff, the more we risk having to close our doors once again."
However, the governor's office said in a statement that including teachers in the current phases is not possible, describing it as a "simple math problem the superintendents who signed this letter should certainly understand," the governor's office said.
"As the Governor and Dr. Toomey have said multiple times: Georgia is not currently receiving enough vaccine supply to provide priority vaccination to over 400,000 teachers and school staff," the statement answered back.
The governor's office, citing its current supply of vaccines, said additional doses do not "appear out of thin air."
"With a weekly allocation of 146,000 doses, the current 1A plus population still accounts for over 2 million high-risk Georgians," the statement continued.
"These superintendents should explain which currently eligible population should be, in their view, sent to the back of the line for vaccination. Seniors? Healthcare workers? First responders and law enforcement?" the statement asked rhetorically. "The Governor has repeatedly stated - as recently as today - that as soon as Georgia begins to receive increased vaccine supply, teachers and school staff will absolutely be included in any expanded criteria."
The letter, and subsequent response from the governor, comes as teachers and the districts they work for bump heads over when and how to safely begin bringing students back to the classroom during the pandemic. That back-and-forth has been playing out most notably in metro Atlanta - especially Cobb County - where teachers have held protests over the move to resume in-person learning as cases remain alarmingly high.
In that district alone, three educators have died, reportedly from COVID-19 - all within a month. One Cobb school board member reported that more than 120 teachers called out sick this week, though he said he had no personal knowledge of an organized and coordinated sick-out.