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City Health Officials Urge School-Required Vaccinations, Target COVID-19 Efforts

Nurse working
A health care worker prepares a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination event in January. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

VPM News intern Adiah Gholston contributed to this report.

On Thursday, state and city health officials said Virginia children are less likely to meet school immunization requirements this year due to limited access to health services during the pandemic. 

Around 96% of public school children were adequately vaccinated in the fall of 2019 for things like measles and HPV. The number dropped to 88% last fall. 

LaWanda Dunn, a Virginia Department of Health nurse supervisor, stresses the importance of  parents keeping track of their kids’ vaccinations to prevent outbreaks. 

“In areas of low vaccination, we have seen a surge unfortunately, have a resurgence of sorts, for instance, measles and mumps,” Dunn said.

Dunn recommends that parents should check the new immunization requirements for the upcoming school year with their child’s pediatrician. Those take effect July 1.

On the COVID-19 front, the district nurse manager, Amy Popovich, said the city is scheduling fewer vaccination appointments ahead of time than they were a few weeks ago - but walk-up style vaccine events have become more popular.

Specifically, the health district is shifting to vaccinations performed by a team of nurses and outreach workers who go on-site. 

“On-site pretty much anywhere,” Popovich said. “So, to a business, to an event, to a faith-based organization, a non-profit organization, a farmer’s market.”

The group is called the ‘Cool Cube Crew’ - they carry their vaccine doses in a boxy cooler - and Popovich said they are looking for events and places around Richmond and Henrico to administer shots.

The shift to hyper-local events is mirrored around the state and country, as there’s not enough demand for large, central events that were heavily visited months ago.

The Virginia Department of Health’s latest data, at time of publication, shows that 69.5% of adults in the state have received one dose - half a percent from President Biden’s July 4 goal. 

In Richmond, at least 53% of adults have received their first dose, although that number does not include federal data.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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