GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — A brief line formed outside the former Sears building at Gwinnett Place Mall on March 8 ,2021, included those who are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, including teachers.

“I’m just excited that we finally got the opportunity to receive the vaccine,” said Quan Warren, a first grade teacher at Stripling Elementary School. “I was a little hesitant at first, but I have to look out for my family and everyone around.” Chesney Elementary School Teacher Amity Lutes, who said she previously had the virus and was quarantined three times, shared his sentiment. “I’m very excited to get this first dose, and then once I get the second one, you know, it won’t be as concerning,” she said.

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State and local officials said they expected staff to vaccinate 600 teachers at the Gwinnett County site alone on Monday. “This is a great day for our state in the fight against the invisible virus,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel to getting back to normal.” “This is the race of the “V’s”: vaccines vs. variants,” said Dr. Audrey Arona, the district health director for the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments.

Gwinnett County school administrators say about 38% of the district’s teachers indicated in a survey they’re not interested in the vaccine. “When they see that those that are getting vaccinated are still able to do their work and go about their normal duties, I think that will encourage some of them to get vaccinated,” said Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. Officials also hope concerns about in-person classes are long gone by the fall. “We’re planning on everybody being in school come August,” Wilbanks said.

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“This is my first year teaching, so it was a little weird having kids online and in person at the same time, but we made it through, so I’m looking forward to next year, being back in person,” said Nia Bester, who teaches first grade at Taylor Elementary School.

As officials wait for more supply, they’re also setting enough vaccine aside for second doses. There is no word just yet on when they will further expand the eligibility criteria. “We’re gonna, I hope, be able to make that determination fairly quickly, as we get our vaccine allocation,” said Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. “We’re getting every dose as quickly as we can in every arm,” Kemp said.

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As always, they recommend everyone continue following the CDC guidelines.