As the push to vaccinate as many people as possible continues in the New River Valley, the New River Health District says one demographic seems to be lagging behind. It’s those who are 30 years old and younger who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“A lot of people in the younger population tend to feel that COVID may not be quite as risky for them, and in most cases, that’s true,” said Noelle Bissell, the district’s health director, while talking with members of the news media on Monday, June 28. “But that’s not 100 percent true. We do have otherwise young and healthy people who have gotten sick with COVID and have died.”

The district’s staff and volunteers continue to travel to community events and other sites to offer COVID-19 vaccines. The district also will continue to work with universities to vaccinate college students, including those who are international and may not have had access to the vaccine, Bissell said.

Virginia Tech requires COVID-19 vaccinations for all students for the fall semester, and students must receive them by Aug. 6. University employees are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated. Read more on deadlines for certain vaccines. 

Currently, 39.9 percent of the New River Valley population is fully vaccinated, a percentage that doesn’t change dramatically from week to week, Bissell said. That’s because demand for vaccines has dropped off across the region and nationally.

“When we are talking about doing events from week to week we are not talking about vaccinating thousands of people,” she said. “We’re talking about vaccinating, if we’re lucky, 100 people. Our focus now is not wasting an opportunity.”

President Joe Biden set a national goal that at least 70 percent of a state’s population would be vaccinated by July 4th. In Virginia, 70.9 percent of adults 18 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

A variant of COVID-19, the Delta variant, is circulating in Southwest Virginia, but it has not yet been detected in the New River Health District, Bissell said. She expects the Delta variant to become the dominant strain. All three versions of the coronavirus vaccine protect against this strain, she said.

Bissell reminded people that receiving a vaccine protects the individual and protects members of the public who cannot be vaccinated for various reasons. This is the concept of herd immunity.

“It’s important to have as many people protected as we can,” she said. “Every single vaccine we give is a success at this point.”

— Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone



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