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Immunization Awareness Month

On Thursday, Aug. 26, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) joined Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to celebrate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). NIAM is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of immunization for people of all ages. ImmunizeVA, a statewide coalition of immunization stakeholders, received the Governor’s Proclamation in recognition of the month. Northam was also joined by mascots of various Virginia colleges and universities to hype up and help spread awareness among families in their respective communities.

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to align Virginia’s immunization requirements with the CDC’s ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommendations. Including previously required immunizations, all children in Virginia will need immunizations to protect against Rotavirus, Meningitis, HPV and Hepatitis A. Without them, students may not be able to start school on time and children may not be able to attend day care. For families of school-aged children, now is the time to get these required vaccines.

“Back to School is a great time for students of all ages to visit their pediatrician,” Northam, a pediatrician, said. “During these check-ups, babies, children and adolescents can receive their routine immunizations to ensure we have a healthy school year. It is also a good idea for everyone eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to get the life-saving shot.”

In Virginia, VDH provides free childhood immunization through the Virginia Vaccines for Children’s program. Families can find providers at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/immunization/vvfc/locatevvfcprovider/ or can visit their local health department to access these free resources.

“COVID-19 disrupted both in-person learning and routine well-child visits for Virginian children over the last year and a half,” Dr. Avula, Virginia’s state vaccination coordinator, said. “The CDC’s immunization ordering data shows a 14% drop in 2020-2021 compared to 2019, and measles vaccine ordering is down by more than 20%. Especially now, it is critical that children receive their immunizations so we don’t overwhelm our health systems with the co-circulation of illness.”

The Virginia Department of Health wants to reiterate that having a trusted health care provider makes it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regular medical visits help families and caregivers understand and monitor their child’s growth and development, manage illness and preventative care and keep up with their immunization schedule.

“Misinformation around vaccines can be really difficult to navigate, but your child’s pediatrician or family medicine doctor is ready and equipped to answer your questions and explain the science behind immunizations,” Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and a mother of two young children, said. “As providers, we are here to partner with you to address concerns and keep your children healthy.”

Lastly, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is available for children ages 12 and up. It’s safe, free and effective. As your student goes back to school, be sure to identify and monitor your locality and school division’s COVID-19 protocols. For more information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit the VDH Coronavirus website. Anyone age 12 or older can find free vaccination clinics near them by visiting Vaccinate.Virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users may call 7-1-1).