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BRHD outlines plan to vaccinate kids 5-11, highlighting equity and access

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 10:39 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The approval to vaccinate children as young as five years old against COVID-19 is nearing. While the Blue Ridge Health District waits for formal approval, it is setting up a vaccination campaign aimed at equity and access.

The projection is to start giving shots to children between ages 5-11 starting the second week of November, but BRHD says it will have to start its campaign prioritizing certain groups.

During a town hall Wednesday night, the health district said even when the shots are approved, there will still be hurdles.

“The rollout of this vaccination campaign is going to be slower than we would like,” said BRHD COVID-19 Incident Commander Ryan McKay.

Doses for the youngest children are smaller than doses for older kids or adults, so health districts are relying on new supply. BRHD will receive 6,300 doses for the first three weeks of vaccinations. The University of Virginia Health System will receive 6,600 over that same time period. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are an estimated 15,000 children between 5-11.

”We really want to emphasize that the access and distribution of this vaccine really has to account for individual children who have underlying medical conditions,” McKay said.

The first phase of kids the health district wants to vaccinate includes those with medical conditions like lung disease or obesity. It’s also cognizant of race.

“The hospitalization rate is significantly higher for non-Hispanic Black, American Indian, and Hispanic children as compared with non-Hispanic white children,” said BRHD Health Director Denise Bonds.

The last piece is identifying that many kids live in higher-risk households -- perhaps because a parent works multiple public-facing jobs, or they live in a congregate setting.

BRHD’s plan is to use a survey to figure out which neighborhoods meet those criteria, and then bring the vaccine there. That would be done mostly through school drive-thrus, but also through area pediatricians and neighborhood clinics.

“It offers us the most mobility to different neighborhoods and schools in order to offer not only a private space for the children, but an easier method for families to kind of get in and go,” said Jen Fleisher, the BRHD’s vaccination project manager.

BRHD is urging anyone with a child ages 5-11 to fill out the anonymous survey, which you can access by clicking here. It also says vaccinations for those children will be by appointment only, and that appointment slots will open on VASE starting on November 8.

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