Vaccines for children ages 5-11 coming to central Virginia as early as this weekend

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 5:57 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Children ages 5 to 11 will soon be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The Blue Ridge Health District anticipates starting vaccinating that age group starting Saturday, November 6.

UVA Health is now scheduling appointments at its Pediatric Community Vaccination Center in the Battle Building. Those appointments will start Monday, November 8.

“We’re glad to be able to offer this intervention to be able to protect children, help to limit the transmission of COVID-19, and hopefully be able to get kids back to a level of normalcy after this is done,” Dr. Debbie-Ann Shirley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with UVA Health, said.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, about 377,000 vaccines are being delivered throughout the commonwealth now and more will come.

Ryan McKay, the director of policy and planning with the Blue Ridge Health District, said that rollout will likely be slower during its first three weeks.

“As we get our allocations in Virginia, and then down to the local level, we have to spread those out between different facilities or providers,” McKay said. “The allotment that we get, comes to us, it comes to the Community Vaccination Center, and then to our local pediatricians.”

McKay said administering vaccinations for this age group comes with challenges.

“Children are going to be a little more reluctant in some situations. We want to make sure that we’re taking our time when it comes to vaccinating them, whether its at pediatrician’s offices, through our site, or through the CVC, so it just takes a little more time to do that,” he said.

McKay said the district is working to bring vaccines to children and families through neighborhood and school-based clinics.

“We just want to make sure that people in neighborhoods, who haven’t had access, who’ve had disproportionate impacts due to COVID-19, and our rural communities, have access where they are, opposed to having children come here,” McKay said.

In a press release sent by BRHD on Friday, October 29, BRHD plans to bring its mobile vaccination unit to neighborhoods that have been “selected due to low rates of vaccination, as well as other factors, like low-income housing, large refugee populations, and/or communities of color.”

Dr. Shirley said the partnership with pediatricians and family doctors is important as this vaccine rollout begins, because that’s where parents will turn to first with questions about the vaccine’s safety.

“There have been polls done to figure out where would parents like their children to be vaccinated, and pediatric offices and primary care offices were at the top of the list,” Dr. Shirley said.

A parent or guardian must be present if their child receives a vaccine.

“We’re really putting our schedule in place so that parents can be there. Our neighborhood and school-based sites will be open on evenings and weekends. Pediatricians are obviously working with parents with a schedule that best fits the family’s needs, and in order for parents to be there,” McKay said.

Madhav Marathe with UVA’s Biocomplexity Institute say vaccinating children will protect people of all ages from serious COVID-19 infections.

“I think it will help everyone around the children, and other children as well, teachers at school, if children are vaccinated,” Marathe said. “They’re proved very safe. Really, have been very very safe so far. I think they’re worth taking in really helping the entire community keep numbers down.”

More information on how to get an appointment through UVA Health can be found here.

More information on how to get an appointment through the Blue Ridge Health District can be found here.

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