RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Hundreds of thousands of children in Virginia are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
On Tuesday, November 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that children 5 to 11 get the Pfizer vaccine to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccination coordinator, says after the decision came down, the Virginia Department of Health alerted providers to start administering doses.
“Sometime this week, we will have 377,000 doses arriving in Virginia,” he said. “That’s plenty of vaccine. We only have 723,000 5 to 11-year-olds. More than half of the eligible population will be able to get access in the next week or two and then we’ll receive more vaccine each week.”
The vaccine will be available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies, which are places Avula says parents said were the most comfortable locations to distribute the vaccines to kids.
Mass vaccination sites, including the Military Circle Community Vaccination Center, will also be able to provide the vaccine.
Thursday was the first day that Norfolk location provided COVID-19 vaccines to the younger age group. VDH says 127 children aged 5-11 years of age were vaccinated that day.
VDH has not yet added this new age group to its vaccination data dashboard. 10 On Your Side is reaching out to find out when it will be added.
“We know that a lot of families had a great experience at our community mass vaccination center. We reopened nine of those sites with the booster rollout. Each of those sites will be able to do 5 to 11. While there’s high demand, best to go to vaccinate.va.gov and make an appointment for their child,” he said. “Adults have been able to walk in for some time now especially in the next few days with demand. It’s best to make an appointment for your child. I expect for two weeks, the demand will ease up and it will be easy to walk in.”
Avula says they’re also working with schools to provide the vaccine and with increasing rates, families could see changes to mitigation and safety protocols.
“Without a doubt, getting kids vaccinated will lessen the risk in the school setting. As we continue to follow the data, we get more people vaccinated, we get less disease circulating in the community. I see changes and guidance on the horizon. I think there’s a couple of other things at play,” he said.
The timing of the approval could not come at a better time with families getting ready to gather for the holidays.
“I’ve talked to so many parents who are relieved at the time of this leading up to Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. For families that want to get back together, this does provide some sense of relief because it gets their kids protected but also reduces the risk of their kids contracting COVID and spreading it to an elderly relative like a grandparent. I think the timing of that is great and really encourages families to get their kids vaccinated,” Avula said.
Avula says they’ll continue to receive more vaccines. Based on data collected from kids ages 12 through 15, they’ll distribute the vaccine to areas where more kids from that age group were vaccinated.
Northern Virginia will get 40% because they saw higher numbers but Avula says depending on demand, they will and can pivot resources.
He hopes that children now being vaccinated, parents will also take advantage of being safe.
“This is a good time for parents, if you have not been vaccinated yourself. Many providers are simultaneously administering pediatric and adult so this is a great time to do that with your child. Many parents are eligible for boosters right now. I’d encourage you to go and sign up at vaccination sites to see if you meet the eligibility,” Avula said.