An expected coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 brings the hope of safer schools, in-person instruction, and sporting events this fall throughout the New River Health District.

The district is making plans to vaccinate this age group as the Pfizer vaccine is predicted to move through the federal approval process this week, said Noelle Bissell, the district’s health director.

During a virtual meeting with the news media on May 10, Bissell explained that the district could deliver first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in a matter of weeks to children, with parental consent, through on-site school clinics. Because of the quickly approaching end to the school year, though, children would be encouraged to receive second doses through community providers, such as pediatrician offices and pharmacies, Bissell said.

The vaccine is an important step to ensuring a safe return to in-person school.

“It just helps us get back to what we all see as normal interaction,” Bissell said. “There are a lot of considerations, but with getting the population vaccinated and with disease activity going down, we will be able to get back to a much more normal experience.”

At least 40 percent of the population in the health district is fully vaccinated, Bissell said, adding that demand for vaccines continues to decrease.

The district soon will discontinue its large-scale vaccination clinics. Its last will be held May 18 at Lane Stadium. 

Instead, it will stick with hosting smaller clinics, with an emphasis on outreach, answering questions, and vaccinating people on the spot at some local events. Information about vaccination events is available on the district’s website.

This week, Virginia Tech is hosting numerous small, in-person commencement ceremonies, similar to other colleges and universities in the district. Bissell said that these activities are pandemic-safe and follow public health guidelines. In particular, the district worked to offer vaccines to faculty, staff, and students ahead of commencement events.

Virginia Tech will hold ceremonies outdoors, and “outdoor transmission [of COVID-19] is exceedingly rare,” Bissell said.

Also, the risks are low at these events, with COVID-19 cases down in the district and with many attendees already vaccinated for the coronavirus, she said.

— Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone

Share this story