In a split vote Monday evening, the Hall County School Board turned down a proposal to offer school district employees a one-time payment for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Board Chairman Craig Herrington, Vice Chair Nath Morris and Board Member Mark Pettitt all said they believed in vaccination as a way to combat the spread of COVID, but each one said he opposed incentivizing the vaccine.
"I've read more medical information than I ever wanted to look at," Herrington said prior to the vote, acknowledging that the vaccine was not perfect and that he had heard evidence of breakthrough cases of the virus among the vaccinated population. "But, all the numbers of all the stuff I've read show you are less likely to get it [COVID] if you have had a vaccination. With that said, I do not agree with spending money to pay someone to get a vaccination."
Morris said his initial thought was that the incentive would be a good thing to do, but he changed his mind.
"Would it really move the needle? We need something to move the needle, and hopefully today's [FDA] approval of [the] Pfizer [vaccine] might help some people get over that hump," Morris said, also pointing out that what he has seen motivate those who are vaccine-hesitant is experiencing the death of a loved one from COVID.
"I know people that this has happened to," Morris said. "And their spouse before was saying 'I'm not going to get the vaccine' and are now saying to people 'Please, get the vaccine.'"
Board members Sam Chapman and Bill Thompson voted in favor of the incentive, although both said they were opposed in principal to paying someone to make a medical decision.
"Personally, I don't like the idea of paying," Chapman said. "But, on the other side, if there's an incentive out there that will save one life, I'm all for it. I'm not against it."
Prior to the vote, Superintendent Will Schofield said he knew board members might be opposed to the idea of incentivizing a medical decision, but he reminded them of the rapid spread of cases through the school district - an additional 100 for Monday - and the hope that vaccinated adults could help stem the spread.
"I appreciate the way you continue to model that it is possible to disagree about issues without being disagreeable," Schofield said.
Several parents addressed the board at the end of the evening about their ongoing concerns for children during the pandemic, each speaking out against masking for students and several discussing what they felt to be the hazards of vaccination.