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EHS, DPH work together to help teachers get COVID-19 vaccination
Melissa Griffis
Ebenezer Middle School sixth-grade teacher Melissa Griffis receives a COVID-19 injection from EMT Adam Davis on Friday morning. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
We feel very vulnerable everyday because kids are breathing all over us. “This is definitely going to help.
Ebenezer Middle School sixth-grade teacher Melissa Griffis

 RINCON — The needle that plunged into Melissa Griffis’ arm Friday morning at Ebenezer Middle School contained more than a COVID-19 vaccine. There was some much-needed reassurance in there, too.

“I felt very uneasy all school year, especially because the students don’t have to wear masks,” said Griffis, a sixth-grader teacher. “That’s been a really big deal for us. We feel very vulnerable everyday because kids are breathing all over us.

“This is definitely going to help.” 

Griffis was one of about two dozen Ebenezer Middle School teachers who were vaccinated Friday. 

“I wasn’t going to sign up for it in the beginning,” Griffis said. “I wanted more people to get it.”

Effingham Health System (EHS) assisted the Department of Public Health by providing a team for the occasion. The team included individuals from multiple departments, underscoring the importance EHS places on community outreach.

Shots were also administered at Blandford Elementary School, Ebenezer Middle School, Rincon Elementary School, Effingham College & Career Academy and the Effingham County Board of Education Office.

“I wish this had happened earlier,” Griffis said.

One Ebenzer Middle School teacher’s husband has been battling COVID-19 for more than 10 weeks, spending much of that time on a respirator.

“That has caused a lot of us to have a personal connection,” Griffis said. “They didn’t think he was going to live and now he is slowly recovering.”

Griffis was exposed to COVID-19 recently, likely during a weekend trip to Disney World with a group of teacher friends. It caused her a couple days of consternation.

“One of our friends on the way back — she wasn’t feeling well while we were there and, come to find out on Monday, she tested positive,” Griffis said. “The four of us had been in the car for six hours together and we thought we’d get it but we didn’t.”

Shawn Baker, also a sixth-grade Ebenezer Middle School teacher, has feared taking the virus home. Her husband is a peritoneal dialysis patient and her father has Parkinson’s disease.

“We can’t let my husband get COVID and we don’t want that for my dad, either,” Baker said. “We’ve been very lucky, in our immediate family, that we haven’t had any issues. We’re just glad that (the vaccine) is here and we are able to try to protect ourselves and those that we deal with daily,” she said.

Baker started the school year teaching online. She was required to report to the school, however.

“I didn’t feel as vulnerable then because I didn’t have students coming into my classroom,” Baker said. “I would see them in the hallways and things like that but they weren’t actually in my classroom.”

Baker returned to a traditional classroom in January.

 The vaccine that was administered in the schools was made by Moderna. The teachers will need to receive another dose in four weeks.