Did you know? August is National Immunization Awareness Month!
As Virginia emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccinating adults and eligible children against COVID-19 is top-of-mind. But, other vaccinations are just as important. Read on for some key information about immunizations, including important changes in what is now required before children can attend school in Virginia.

Childhood Immunizations Fell Behind During the Pandemic
As stay-at-home orders were implemented during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, childhood vaccinations and well-child checkups fell noticeably. While checkups and vaccinations among some age groups (newborns, in particular) have nearly rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, rates among others (teens, in particular) remain far behind previous years’.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this decline poses a significant threat to public health, since the lag in vaccines may lead to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases which are very contagious and can cause death (e.g., measles). Even this temporary decline in age-appropriate vaccinations can threaten herd immunity against communicable diseases in some parts of the U.S.

Part of the decline may be attributable to decreased monitoring of school-required vaccines during the 2020-21 school year, due to the prevalence of virtual rather than in-person learning as a result of the pandemic. Getting children up-to-date with their vaccination schedules is more important than ever as children re-enter schools in-person in the next few months. In addition, flu vaccines will be key to avoiding a “twindemic,” (rise in both COVID-19 cases and flu cases).

While getting children caught up on vaccines will be crucial to successfully reopening schools, vaccinating teenagers (against such illnesses as meningitis and human papillomavirus, HPV) and adults (against such illnesses as pneumonia, shingles, and hepatitis A) will also be key to avoiding epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases as the COVID-19 pandemic declines. In light of this, the CDC has revised its earlier guidance, and is now encouraging providers to give COVID-19 vaccines on the same day as other vaccines, particularly if an eligible child or teen has fallen behind on his/her recommended vaccinations.

Do You Know that Several Vaccines Are Now Required for Virginia Schoolchildren?
Another reason Virginia parents should be sure their children and teens are caught up on vaccinations is that some vaccines which were previously recommended before entering school are now legally required by the state before kids can return to school for the coming school year.
  • Rising Kindergarteners must have 2 doses of the hepatitis A vaccine, separated by 6 months, by the time they enter school.

  • Rising 7th graders must have the first dose of Meningococcal vaccine (MenACWY), and 2 doses of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which prevents certain cancers.*

  • Rising high-school seniors must have the second dose of MenACWY, before entering their senior year.

*Parents may opt-out of the requirement to have their children vaccinated against HPV.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) – Virginia Chapter has released this one-page guide outlining which vaccines are now required for students in Virginia. For more information on the new vaccine requirements, the diseases they help prevent, and the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for teens, check out this video featuring Dr. Amy Harden, Dr. Percita Ellis, and Dr. Leah Rowland, from the AAP’s Virginia Chapter. 

How to Help Families Find Vaccines
Need to help a client, or a loved one, get caught up on his/her school-required immunizations (or other vaccines)?

You can direct them to:

And, if you or a loved one has not yet gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, learn how to get your COVID-19 vaccine at vaccinate.virginia.gov, or call 1-877-VAX-INVA (1-877-829-4682) (TTY: 711), from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Language services are available.

Looking for Data, or Other Vaccination Awareness Resources?
In honor of National Immunization Awareness month, be sure to check out the CDC’s resources aimed at encouraging families to stay on track with childhood vaccinations.
Most resources are available in English and Spanish. Sample social media posts are included to help you share this important information with the communities you serve.
For data on COVID-19 vaccination in your community, check out the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Summary.