RICHMOND, Va., — Richmond leaders are urging parents to vaccinate their children ahead of the virtual start of school on September 8.
Mayor Levar Stoney, Richmond School Superintendent Jason Kamras and the Richmond-Henrico Health District kicked off the “Don’t Wait, Vaccinate” campaign at Diversity Thrift on Sherwood Avenue Wednesday afternoon.
“On time vaccination throughout the childhood is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases,” Stoney explained. “In order to prevent the spread of other infectious diseases and ensure our children stay healthy during this most critical time.”
Amy Popovich, a nurse manager and Director of Community Engagement for Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, said vaccination rates across the state are 23 percent lower compared to previous years.
For the period of March 1 to June 30 of this year, the City of Richmond saw a 55 percent drop in the number of children vaccinated compared to the same time period in 2019.
She said Richmond also has the highest incident of cancers related to HPV.
“We do have the power to protect our children against diseases like the flu, measles, cancers that are caused by HPV and whooping cough,” Popovich said. “If you have a chronic condition such as asthma and diabetes getting sick with the flu can lead to serious complications.”
The low vaccination rates are attributed to parents worried about sending their children to the doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to experts.
“I certainly think it’s a large contributor given that many clinics or closed or narrowed particularly of course from March to beginning of June window,” Popovich stated.
The Flying Squirrel's baseball team mascot Nutzy also helped send the message holding a sign that read: "Schedule your back-to-school vaccinations!"
The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts plan to hold focus groups with families and community members to identify other reasons that may be barriers to immunizations.
Popovich said their job is to provide the public with facts, in response to a question about anti-vaxxers who choose not to get their children vaccinated.
“Vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to help protect people from disease and they are tested to make sure they are safe and effective and carefully monitored while in use,” she stated.
Superintendent Kamras said students are required to be vaccinated in order to attend school, according to Virginia law.
“It is absolutely critical, in fact, it is required for Kindergarten and entering 7th grade,” he explained even though RPS will begin online instruction on September 8.
“Obviously, protecting the health and safety of our kids is the most important thing we do. It’s why we are going virtual in the first place,” Kamras said.
Don't wait - vaccinate! Across VA, vaccination rates are down as much as 30% since March. @RichmondCity_HD is offering vaccine clinics every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in August to help students get immunized at little to no cost. Learn more: https://t.co/j0xslq1bFv. https://t.co/IcGSBSwwt6— City of Richmond, VA (@CityRichmondVA) July 29, 2020
Mayor Stoney shared a personal story about a school nurse denying him and his brother entry into school because they were not vaccinated. His father took them to a free clinic where they received their vaccinations and attended classes the next day.
“The experience I had is an experience a lot of kids have and what our schools have to deal with on a too regular basis,” he said. “That’s why we are asking everyone to vaccinate.”
The Richmond City Health District will offer immunization clinics every Monday and Wednesday morning and Tuesday afternoon in August to help students get immunized at little to no cost.
Appointments are required and can be made by calling (804) 482-5500.
Additional information about immunization clinics, student school physical events, and other health services can be found at RCHD.com in immunization services link or here.
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