(Meriwether County) - As vaccines become more widely available in the state, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency’s vocational training center at Roosevelt Warm Springs (RWS) has partnered with a local hospital to help give employees a better shot at staying healthy. As of April, more than 50 RWS employees have received the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine through Warm Springs Medical Center, a healthcare facility independent of GVRA. Hospital staff have also trained RWS nurses to administer the vaccine themselves. The shots come at no cost to employees.

“We have such a great resource in this healthcare center, right in our back yard,” said GVRA Residential Services Director Dr. Lee Brinkley Bryan, who leads the campus. “We wanted the opportunity to help ensure more people in the community get vaccinated and also to ensure our students are safe as they return to campus in phases.”

Though the vaccine is not currently administered to students, Dr. Brinkley Bryan says staff vaccinations, coupled with social distancing measures and stringent cleaning protocol, will help reduce the overall risk on campus. RWS, which is currently in the process of transitioning back to onsite instruction, is taking it slow—welcoming 25 students back in April. If COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline, the next phase involves expanding capacity to 50 students, and 75 after that, before eventually returning to full capacity if and when conditions allow.

“While there are many advantages to in-person learning, we are very pleased that we have been able to offer online instruction for a full year now. Having multiple options allows the students some flexibility and also allows us to ease back in without interrupting students’ curriculum,” Brinkley Bryan said.

Karen Daniel is the Chief Executive Officer at Warm Spring Medical Center. She says the hospital has administered more than 2,700 vaccines in the community over the past twelve weeks.

“You hear about hesitancy in some areas to receive the vaccine, but that largely has not been the case with us,” says Daniel. “We had a lot of people come in who initially were concerned about not being able to find one. You won’t believe how many in the community are overwhelmingly grateful to be able to protect themselves and their families without traveling a long way for a shot.”

Currently, Warm Springs Medical Center gives about 180 vaccines per week, with Director of Pharmacy Dr. Renee Smith leading the effort.

“We could never have anticipated the events of the past year,” said Smith. “We have learned so much and continue to learn. The way we approach COVID-19 patient care is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and our staff feel better equipped as we go to evaluate and take care of our patients with symptoms.”

Brinkley Bryan said RWS’s partnership with the Warm Springs Medical Center aligns with a tradition dating back to its founder, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and its history as a polio treatment and rehabilitation facility.

“This is what we do. This is what we’ve always done,” Brinkley Bryan said. “We have a rich history in handling and responding to illnesses of epidemic and pandemic proportions. We should be leaders in that we believe in responsiveness and excellent preventative measures.”

Media Contacts:

Robin Folsom, Director of External Affairs, robin.folsom@gvs.ga.gov

John Boan, Public Affairs Officer, John.Boan@gvs.ga.gov