VDH officials want childhood COVID-19 vaccination rates to rise before school starts

Posted at 1:43 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 14:07:05-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- As parents, guardians and schools plan for students' return to in-person learning this fall, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is hoping the number of eligible children vaccinated for COVID-19 rises.

In Richmond, 35.9% of children under the age of 18 are vaccinated. In Chesterfield County, that number is 46%.

Hanover's rate is 47.5%, and the highest rate in the Richmond area right now is Henrico -- with 52.3% of children vaccinated.

While Virginia has reached its goal of at least 70% of the adult population having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine, health officials want to see the childhood vaccination rate increase before children return to school this fall.

"We're really looking as we're moving closer to Labor Day to increase that number and to increase the number of children that are vaccinated," explained Marshall Vogt, an epidemiologist with VDH. "And so we're aiming for as high as we can go. But we know that, you know, that 60% to 70% mark is really critical, and probably a little bit higher than that, as we continue to move through with these different variants emerging."

The rise of the Delta variant is concerning for Vogt and his colleagues as he notes it's not only more contagious, but data also shows it’s more severe.

"Thankfully, children aren't as severely impacted by COVID-19, even with some of these variant strains, based on what we know so far, but that could all change as additional strains develop," said Vogt.

In order to help increase the number of children getting vaccinated against COVID-19, some school districts are hosting vaccination clinics inside school buildings.

Wednesday, Henrico County Public Schools are hosting a childhood vaccination and COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Brookland Middle School and Tuckahoe Middle School from 9 a.m. to ``11 a.m.

"We're looking to all of our partners across the provider community, from local health districts and school systems partnering together to doctors offices, to pharmacies, to provide those opportunities for vaccination," Vogt noted.

While the Delta variant is more contagious, health officials note all three COVID-19 vaccines are still very effective at preventing disease.