Wanting kids back in the classroom, Kemp expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to teachers and more

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp said that children need to be back in the classroom and now teachers will be able to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to help make that happen as soon as possible.

Kemp made the announcement during a news conference Thursday, where he expanded once again who was eligible for the vaccine.

“Virtual learning is leaving too many children behind and parents are at wits end. They are also very exhausted,” Kemp said.

The governor said Georgia students need to be back in the classroom 5 days a week for face-to-face learning. He said he wouldn’t order it, but he’s hoping the vaccination expansion will move Georgia in that direction.

“Moving forward we cannot delay full in-person learning any longer,” Kemp said. “Georgians deserve to return to normal as soon as possible and that will not happen without school doors open to instruction each and every day.”

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray first reported that the governor would expand vaccine eligibility to teachers earlier this week, but Thursday we found out what other groups would be included in that expansion.

[QUICK LINKS: Here’s where you can get COVID-19 vaccines around metro Atlanta]

Other than teachers and school staff, the governor also announced that parents of sick children and adults with developmental disabilities and their care givers will now be eligible to get the vaccine.

“Given the steady increase in vaccine supply and the significant progress in getting more doses administered, today we will be taking another step to protect the most vulnerable and get Georgians back to work,” Kemp said.

When this new phase begins on March 8, it will bring the total number of Georgians eligible for the vaccine up to 3 million people. Georgia currently has about 10 million people living in the state.

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Kemp said more than half of Georgians over 65 have now received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“Since mid-January, we have seen a 70% increase in doses sent to the state which has allowed us to make significant headway in the current (Phase) 1a population,” Kemp said.

The state said it expects its allotment to increase even more in coming weeks allowing for this expansion.

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Georgia will also be doing away with vaccine phases like 1a and 1b. Kemp said with different definitions between the federal government and states, it’s too confusing for people to keep everything straight.

The state said school systems are already working with the state on having a plan in place to vaccinate educators as soon as March 8 comes around.

Gray learned Thursday that the state expects to announce a further expansion for more Georgians with high-risk health conditions in about 10 days.