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Richmond/Henrico health officials warn about drop in childhood immunizations

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 1:43 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Thursday was the last day of school for students in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Hopewell and Colonial Heights. But health leaders are already encouraging families to begin thinking about the next school year and getting their child’s immunizations up to date now.

“Areas of low vaccination, we have seen a surge, unfortunately, a resurgence of sorts. For instance, measles and mumps,” said LaWanda Dunn, RHHD Population Health Nurse Supervisor.

A host of childhood shots are required to attend public school in Virginia. In the fall of 2019, about 96% of public school kids had adequate vaccines. In the fall of 2020, the rate dropped to about 88%.

“There’s been a lot of factors that affect children’s access to health care in the last year of course the pandemic and schools being virtual,” said Amy Popovich, RHHD Nurse Manager.

The concern is prompting the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts to offer up those traditional vaccines to children at three sites every week where they can also get a COVID-19 vaccine, if they are aged 12 and up.

“Parents should definitely be, especially parents of rising kindergartners and seventh-graders, you should definitely check in with their school or school nurse and a pediatrician to see if their child is up to date on vaccines for school entry,” said Dunn.

Once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for those under 12 years of age, the health district says parents will be able to get a vaccine for their child through a pharmacy, their own doctor and at school.

“Partnering again with our schools to figure out what options work best for them. The same need to have parental consent will exist and the same need to have an adult with that child when they get vaccinated and the same need for education so that our children feel like they understand what’s happening and what a vaccine would be used for,” Popovich said.

Meanwhile, doctors and pharmacies are ordering fewer childhood vaccines because of the drop in demand. Currently, orders are down 14%, but that’s expected to change as we get back to our routine lives again.

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