Vaccination rates among children ages 5 to 11 are increasing steadily in Richmond and Henrico counties since the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention deemed the age group eligible to get vaccinated starting on Nov. 8.
In the city of Richmond, 15.1% of children have already received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, while 18.9% of children received their first dose in Henrico County, according to the latest data from the Virginia Department of Health. These numbers lag slightly behind the 19.2% state average in Virginia, according to VDH.
Rollout of the vaccine comes after the CDC Advisory Committee granted approval for children to start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech shot on Nov. 2.
Since then, national polling indicates that one-third of parents have already gotten their children vaccinated or are planning to do so, according to the Kaiser Institute.
Parents have chosen different options for their children as they receive their first doses. Pfizer will ship 252,000 doses of their vaccine to private providers, according to VDH. Another 125,000 will go directly to pharmacies.
“Parents consistently said that the places they wanted to get vaccinated were their doctor’s offices or pharmacies,” said Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City and Henrico County Health Departments and state vaccination liaison. “So in the initial rollout, we really prioritized as much vaccine as possible to go to pediatrician offices, family practice offices and then pharmacies.”
A third of the vaccine in the first went to pharmacies, and then between 50% to 60% went to doctor’s offices, Avula said. Avula said that remaining doses went to health departments and larger mass vaccination centers.
The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts estimate that about half of children in Henrico and Richmond will get vaccinated through their pediatricians.
Vaccines are also available through local health department vaccine clinics and larger clinics, including at the Richmond Raceway and Arthur Ashe Athletic Center.
Some parents are choosing to vaccinate their children at schools, including Maura Alexander, a University of Richmond professor of finance and mother to two children. Alexander’s children received their first doses in the first week it was made available at their school’s clinic, she said.
“I trust the approval process,” Alexander said. “And I feel like it’s been important to do because the vaccine has been shown to reduce death, hospitalization and the spread of COVID, so how could you not do that?”
At one pediatric vaccination event at Fairfield Middle School on Nov. 13, 157 students and 37 adults received the first dose, according to RHHD. The lines ran smoothly and there were no long wait times, according to the Henrico Citizen.
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Establishing school-based vaccination clinics was a primary goal of the Richmond Department of Health, Avula said.
“I spoke to all the superintendents three months ago initially and then had regular checkpoints with them, helping them understand why it would be good for schools to engage in school-based vaccination,” he said.
Initially, most vaccination locations required appointments. As of Nov. 16, children ages 5 to 11 no longer need appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Richmond. All agencies' health districts will offer walk-in appointments, according to WRIC.
Officials are now hoping to convince hesitant parents to get their children vaccinated.
“We really tried to help parents understand why this is important, helping people understand that this isn’t a harmless disease, and we have a vaccine that’s incredibly effective,” Avula said.
In the midst of the holiday season, parents of vaccinated children hope that their vaccination status will put family and friends at ease about getting together more often. Alexander is hopeful that unvaccinated people will use the resources available online to educate themselves.
“I would encourage them to talk to their children’s doctors and look at the research,” Alexander said.“The CDC, for example, has a great website answering some common questions from parents and trying to refute some of the myths that are out there.”
Contact City & State writer Tyler Rosenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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