Vaccination Verification Process Causes Confusion


Grant Whitley

On Oct. 26, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that their panel had approved the Pfizer vaccine for kids between the ages of 5 and 11.  on November 2, the FDA officially fully authorized the vaccine, Another panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also approved and provided its recommendations and guidelines.

This announcement came just two weeks after the City Schools Decatur (CSD) released the district’s vaccination statistics at a School Board meeting on Oct.12. The statistics that were revealed announced that only 52.6% of students eligible for the vaccine were vaccinated and only 48.7% of staff were vaccinated. In an interview, CSD Superintendent Dr. Maggie Fehrman said, “I think the full data point we were trying to explain was to know where we are making progress, where we were moving towards this vaccine mandate for our staff, and trying to encourage as many students as possible to get vaccinated.” 

To explain these seemingly low percentages, Fehrman clarified that there are several caveats to these points. 

“The student one is voluntary. This isn’t required to be submitted,” Fehrman said. Therefore the statistics are not a true representation of vaccinated students in CSD.

“From my understanding, you go into Infinite Campus, scroll down to student health information, and upload their information. [Guardians] Click ‘Yes, [the] child is vaccinated or plans on getting vaccinated’, then [they] add a snapshot of the vaccine card,” Fehrman said 

According to Fehrman, the process had eluded many community members. “The reason why it’s difficult, there are several difficulties. It seems some parents get the information via email but they really need it through text because they (parents) need a link to attach the picture of their (vaccine) card. And the other besides the scenes process is after let’s say Mrs. Burnette goes in and uploads her data for her children, and an actual person in the district/school system has to go in and pull up her child’s data and approve it.”

On November 9,  Fehrman and the rest of the CSD school board announced that 86.2 % of CSD teachers are fully vaccinated, different numbers than were initially reported. This leaves the remaining 128 staff members unvaccinated or without records. According to Fehrman, CSD Staff had until Friday, November 12, as the drop-dead date for information submitted to the district superintendent. 

Of the remaining 128 staff members, 79 have not reported or shown their vaccination records as of November 9th. The remaining 49 have exemptions given to staff members unwilling or unable to get vaccinated. 

As far as daily testing for the exempted staff at the November 9 board meeting Fehrman said, “[We] had hoped to give testing, [but] we have realized daily testing is not necessary.”

The previous plan was to give daily testing to these un-vaccinated teachers, but due to testing shortages, CSD has been unable to follow through. This coincides with the cancelation of COVID-19 screening on November 4, as CSD shifts companies to supply their needs.

“When talking with my advisory team, a decreased amount of testing would still be appropriate. While still having additional mitigation layers,”  Fehrman said. This means teachers who are a part of the exemption program will still be regularly tested when CSD finds another testing provider.

More information on the vaccine mandate can be found here

For students who are still unvaccinated and hope to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,  CSD has partnered with the DeKalb Department of Health to bring a vaccination bus to Decatur High school every two weeks. However, no vaccines will be given to those 11 or under.

“At this point, the vaccine event that comes to us won’t have the 5 to 11 year old vaccine yet. We are still just vaccinating [people] 12 plus at our on-site location events,” Fehrman said.