Virginia has started vaccinations for children ages 12 and up, as officials start to work with superintendents on getting clinics into schools.
State education Superintendent James Lane said Thursday during a Virginia Department of Health media briefing that officials from the health department met with local school superintendents earlier in the week about expanding upcoming clinics to younger teens and children.
“We heard from many of our superintendents that they were excited about that; many already had clinics scheduled for 16- to 18-year-olds and notified us that they would be able to add 12- to 15- year-olds at those clinics that were already scheduled once approval came through,” Lane said.
At those clinics, parents will have to give permission by filling out a form. They do not have to be present at the time of the vaccination.
Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination coordinator, said vaccinating children 12 and up will help the state reach herd immunity.
“We know that getting to community immunity means that we’ve got to vaccinate more than just the 18 [and up] and that population,” Avula said.
He said that about 64% of Virginia’s population has received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and that the state is on its way to reach President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of the adult population having at least one dose by July 4.
Avula said more than 6.9 million doses have been administered.
When asked about why some children and teens ages 12 to 15 were turned away from some Virginia clinics on Thursday, Avula said that while pharmacies, hospitals and other clinics could start vaccinations immediately after approval of the vaccine for that age group, Community Vaccination Centers were asked to hold off until Friday.
“Our health department providers or private providers, our pharmacies, they’re all doing this on a regular basis; the policies are clear. But our CVC, our flu vaccination centers, are done with a lot of new and local hires from agencies and from other sources,” Avula said. “We really just wanted a buffer to make sure that those community vaccination centers knew the policies for consenting … and knew how to address some of the questions that may come up with parents.”
At CVCs, children must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian and be accompanied by a parent, guardian or someone acting in the place of a guardian to receive a vaccine.
Sites run by the Virginia Department of Health require the parent or guardian to verbally confirm a minor’s date of birth; however, other providers may require additional proof of age.
Avula said another focus when it comes to immunity is second doses. He said 6.7% of Virginians who got a first dose of the vaccine did not get the second dose within the recommended time period of 42 days.
He said this is a concern when it comes to immunity and coronavirus variants.
In order to combat this, Avula said that the VDH has asked all vaccination clinics not to worry about where people got their first dose.
“The more flexible we are, the more accessible we are,” Avula said.
He added that school clinics might help families who are hesitant about getting the vaccine.
“I absolutely think adolescents who have lived through this want to get back to school, want to get back to school without restriction, and that motivation will open some doors for parents who are maybe not sure or just hadn’t made the appointment,” Avula said.
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