Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Dr. Lisa Herring said at a press conference today that if the surge in COVID cases continues to worsen she would be open to exploring a vaccine mandate.

The press conference was held at Jean Young Childs Middle School. Herring was joined by Principal Ron Garlington, Chair of the Fulton County Commission Robb Pitts, and APS Board of Education Chair Jason Esteves.

This week APS and the Fulton County Board of Health launched a joint initiative to offer the Pfizer vaccine at all middle and high schools to students age 12 and up and staff.

The first dose was administered throughout this week and the second dose will begin the week of August 30.

“We want to preserve in-person learning,” Herring said. “We understand and note the importance of that by wearing our masks and practicing distancing protocols.”

According to Dr. Herring, before this initiative, only 18% of eligible APS students and 58% of employees were vaccinated.

“One of the most important safety measures that can be taken by staff, and eligible students, is to get fully vaccinated,” said Herring.

Herring continued to say as a district, APS is committed to removing barriers of access to the vaccine that will allow them to fulfill their central duties of teaching and learning.

“We know that vaccines save lives and no lives are more important than those of our children,” Pitts said. “This is especially important to remember now with the delta variant spreading like wildfire, which we know impacts children far more than previous versions.”

Fulton County has administered more vaccines than the rest of Georgia, according to Commissioner Pitts. He pointed out that some of the areas of the county with the lowest vaccination rates are in Atlanta.

“While the white and black populations of Fulton County residents are virtually identical,” Pitts said. “90 thousand fewer black residents have been vaccinated, and that’s a problem.

41 students and staff were vaccinated Thursday at Jean Young Childs Middle School.

(L to R) Jason Esteves, Ron Garlington, Dr. Lisa Herring, Robb Pitts (Photo Credit: Madeline Thigpen)