Fully vaccinated youths will not have to quarantine after an exposure to the coronavirus, eliminating missed school days, sports and other after-school activities, said Dena Potter, the spokeswoman for vaccine distribution in Virginia.
During a virtual meeting with public school superintendents and officials from some private schools and local health departments, Potter said, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James F. Lane and state vaccine coordinator Danny Avula encouraged schools to launch clinics quickly so students can get both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 21 days apart, before the end of the academic year. (In places where the school year ends early, such as in parts of southwest Virginia, local health departments said they would arrange second doses for students, Potter said.)
School districts and local health departments in Virginia have already worked together to host clinics in schools for 16-to-18-year-olds and, in some cases, their parents or guardians.
Inova will begin vaccinating children 12 to 15 years old at the Stonebridge Covid-19 Vaccination Center in Alexandria on Thursday, pending federal vaccine authorization, spokeswoman Tracy Connell said. Parents who use the Inova system can schedule their children for an appointment through the system’s MyChart site and will have to accompany them to the vaccination site.
Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand, who runs the region’s largest school district, has said he hopes to offer voluntary in-school vaccination sites at several campuses later this spring.
About 1 million 12-to-15-year-olds live in Virginia, Maryland and the District and will become eligible for vaccination as soon as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immunization committee, which is having an emergency meeting Wednesday, gives the final go-ahead for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be administered to youths.
Once the vaccine is authorized for those in this population, they can get vaccinated wherever Pfizer shots are administered, Potter said. That includes clinics run by health districts and health-district partnerships with hospitals, Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded community vaccination centers — such as ones in Tysons and Prince William County — and pharmacies. Walk-ups are already accepted at most locations.
In Montgomery County in Maryland, Health Officer Travis Gayles told lawmakers that 12-to-15-year-olds could start getting vaccinated as soon as Thursday if the Pfizer authorization happens Wednesday.
Parents or legal guardians can preregister their children for appointments on the county’s website and will need to be present during the vaccinations to provide consent, Gayles told members of the Montgomery County Council. The county is working to set up youth-specific clinics on the evenings and weekends so parents will not have to take time off work to accompany their children to get the shots.
A school-system spokeswoman said school officials are working with county leaders to get the word out about the availability of vaccinations for 12-to-15-year-olds and determine what the clinics will look like and where they will be held.
Maryland Department of Health spokesman Charlie Gischlar has said that the 12-to-15-year-old group should be able to be vaccinated anywhere the Pfizer vaccine is offered in the state. On Tuesday, he said Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will provide additional details about vaccinating youths at a news conference that is scheduled for Wednesday.
“We look forward to expanding the eligible pool of vaccinations to adolescents, and we are ready to go as soon as federal approval is granted,” Gischlar said.
D.C. health officials said last week that it would take them a few days to train vaccinators to give shots to youths, who will then be accepted at some but not all of the city’s walk-up vaccination sites. More details are expected in coming days.
As more residents have gotten vaccinated, the numbers of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have continued to decline in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, although D.C. officials said Tuesday that a technical glitch had led to a number of new infections not being reported over the weekend and Monday.
Some of those were included in the 87 cases the city reported Tuesday, along with three new deaths. Other not-yet-tallied cases will be reported in coming days, officials said. Maryland reported 399 new cases and nine new deaths Tuesday, and Virginia reported 600 new cases and 17 new deaths.
Hannah Natanson, Donna St. George, Ovetta Wiggins and Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.