Vaccination of adolescents age 12+ starting now in Virginia
Community vaccination centers waiting till Friday, VDH says
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s approval late Wednesday afternoon, Virginia public health authorities gave their OK to expanding Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shots to children ages 12 and older Wednesday night. In an update Thursday, state vaccination coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said that schools around the state are setting up vaccination clinics beginning Thursday and that other locations such as doctors’ offices and pharmacies are now inviting adolescents for their shots.
One exception: Large community vaccination clinics — including those at Tysons Corner Mall and Gander Mountain in Prince William County — will start offering vaccination on Friday so the vaccine providers can be trained with current federal guidance regarding vaccination of adolescents.
Avula said, for instance, that the CDC has changed its earlier advice about how soon the COVID vaccine can be given after children have gotten other vaccines, such as mumps and measles. The current guidance allows children ages 12 and older to get a COVID shot at the same time as other vaccines they’re receiving, he said, and vaccine administrators need to be able to answer parents’ questions about this and other matters.
The following locations will begin offering vaccination to everyone age 12 and older beginning Friday:
- Portsmouth – Sportsplex
- Petersburg – Virginia State University
- Prince William –Gander Mountain
- Suffolk – Hilton Garden Inn
- Fairfax (Tysons) – Tysons Corner Mall
- Virginia Beach –Virginia Beach Convention Center
- Newport News –13771 Warwick Boulevard in the former Sherwood Shopping Center
- Hampton – Hampton Coliseum
Virginia Superintendent for Public Instruction James Layne, who also was on the call, said he’s spoken with many superintendents in recent days, and although he does not have complete figures, many said they plan to have clinics set up at schools where students with signed permission slips from parents or guardians can get their shots. Layne said that unlike other childhood vaccines required by school systems, the COVID vaccine is not required by schools and is not under the Virginia Department of Education’s authority unless the General Assembly passes a law making it so.
Avula said that getting kids vaccinated will likely help stop the spread of COVID; although younger people are more often asymptomatic or get a mild case when infected, those qualities make it more likely they’ll spread the virus to adults around them.
As for adults getting vaccinated, 64% of Virginians age 18 and older have gotten at least a first dose, Avula said, putting the state well on track for President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of the nation’s adult population vaccinated with one dose by July 4. Avula said his end goal is still to get 75% to 80% of all eligible Virginians (now age 12 and older) vaccinated, and he said health districts, particularly in the Southwest and Roanoke regions, are using creative tactics to make vaccination convenient.
In Roanoke, for example, volunteers are approaching people in a grocery store parking lot where there is a pop-up clinic and offering vaccination right on the spot, and there are bars and college campuses hosting clinics as well.
“I think having the opportunity to talk through this with somebody who’s not going to judge you, who’s not going to shame you is really important at this stage,” Avula said. In places where only 40% of adults have gotten vaccinated, he added, “It’s not that 60% are resistant, it just hasn’t been front of mind for them.”
He added that one growing concern is the 6.7% of Virginians as of Wednesday who have gotten one shot and not their second dose, which is needed for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be fully effective. Early research appears to show that some variants, including the one causing India’s surge, are much more contagious among people who have gotten only their first shot, compared with people who are fully vaccinated.
Finally, although no firm plans have been made, Avula says it is a “daily topic of conversation” among state health officials to possibly start offering incentives for people to get vaccinated, although funding and whether such incentives would be retroactively available to people who got their shots already are areas of discussion, too. In New Jersey, clinics are offering coupons for a free beer in its “Shot and a Beer” program.
To find out where vaccinations are taking place in your community, visit the Vaccinate Virginia site.