Pediatrician: Keep up with immunizations in preparation of COVID-19 vaccines for children

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 10:18 AM EDT
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — Back in the spring of 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that required students within the Commonwealth of Virginia to have certain immunizations prior to beginning seventh grade.

“Kids that did not have the vaccines before the start of sixth grade, weren’t going to be able to start sixth grade. Sixth grade is those first days when you learn how you do your locker combination. Where you are going to find your books and how you go to your classes,” Dr. Percita Ellis with the Virginia Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics explained. “They wanted to make sure that kids were on the same starting point by sixth grade and by seventh grade, they should know that already.”

Last year, some students were not up to date on immunizations or the pandemic slowed the process. Pediatricians are recommending parents and families get children up to date with all previously required vaccinations so when the COVID-19 vaccines become available to younger children, they will be able to get vaccinated for the virus during an isolated time period.

“You really shouldn’t have any other vaccine two weeks before or two weeks after completing your COVID series,” Dr. Ellis explained.

The immunizations mentioned in H1090 are required for students to begin seventh grade. Some health experts say they expect certain COVID vaccines to become available to younger adolescents in the coming weeks.

“The TDAP, Meningitis and Hepatitis A are definitely required, so they probably want to get those first, and then in two to four weeks they can do the COVID vaccine,” Dr. Ellis added.

For a list of required vaccines for students in Virginia, click here. Though certain vaccines are required, there are exceptions for religious or medical reasons.

“Usually the bottom line is we really want them to get the vaccines because we want everybody to stay healthy. The last thing we want for instance is another Pertussis break out or anything like that. We really want the kids to stay healthy so they can stay together and do well in school,” Dr. Ellis added.

Superintendent of Rockingham County Public Schools Oskar Scheikl says whether or not schools will require the COVID-19 vaccine for students remains up to the Virginia Department of Education.

“As a school division we would certainly get that information from the DOE but VDH would be the agency that is responsible for public health and so that is where that decision will come from,” Scheikl said.

District leaders are working with the community to aid in vaccination efforts for those age 16 and up. Scheikl says no vaccine is given to a student without parent permission.

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