Avoiding post-holiday COVID-19 surges in the Valley, getting kids vaccinated

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 6:47 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - COVID-19 vaccines continue going into arms around the Shenandoah Valley.

After approval from the CDC and FDA earlier this month, kids ages 5 to 11 can get the Pfizer shot, and clinics at local health districts have been busy as little ones roll up their sleeves.

5 to 11-year-olds are now welcome at any Central Shenandoah Health District (CSHD) vaccine clinic but to increase opportunities for kids and their families, the staff is also coming into the schools to give shots. Jordi Shelton with the CSHD said clinics have been busy, as expected.

“We were ready to scale up our clinics, so we’ve had great success and we’ve had great turnouts,” Shelton said. “Folks have been ready for this.”

As of Nov. 15, 52.6% of the CSHD population is fully vaccinated, with 58% of the population receiving at least one dose.

Shelton said many parents are jumping at the opportunity to get their recently-approved kids vaccinated, but the CSHD is also seeing a steady increase in people coming out for their first and second shots, or boosters.

In the Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD), which covers Page and Shenandoah counties, Director Dr. Colin Greene said the demand for children’s vaccines is what they anticipated too. The LFHD has also begun going into schools to vaccinate students, where Greene said hundreds of vaccines have been given already.

“There are quite a few of the children in that age group in the district, but it’s going to be a lot of the situations like it was with teenagers where some people are going to want it done right away and others are going to want to wait,” Greene said.

This week, Greene said there are a few clinics for students: Wednesday, Nov. 17 at Luray High School from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Thursday, Nov. 18 at W. W. Robinson Elementary School beginning at 2:30 p.m. He said one clinic was held at Page County High School on Monday evening, as well.

If you want your child to get the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine, you will need an appointment ahead of time for 5 to 11-year-olds. Both health districts recommend reaching out to your local pharmacy or primary care doctor for opportunities to get the shot too.

As many families plan to get together for the holiday season this year, the Valley’s health districts are hoping to avoid a surge in cases like it saw last year.

Last holiday season, COVID-19 vaccines were not available yet, but Shelton said when they became more accessible to more people, cases began to drop. Late July is when the Valley saw major spikes in cases again.

Right now, and for the last few weeks, local cases have been trending down, which is how health districts hope it stays.

If you do plan to get together with family or friends, the CDC has holiday celebration tips to have a safe and healthy holiday. Most importantly, the CDC says the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible.

They also advise people to not travel if they are feeling sick, avoid crowded areas, and wear well-fitting masks over their nose and mouth if they are in public indoor settings if they are not fully vaccinated.

“Smaller gatherings are better than large ones, and the safest [gatherings] are ones where everybody who can be vaccinated, is,” Dr. Greene said. “If you have unvaccinated family members, you have a very elderly or feeble relative, this might not be the year for those unvaccinated people to visit that particular person.”

Dr. Greene said while kids will not have time to be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving, they can get one of their shots, which he said does more good than having no shot.

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