June 29, 2020
Media Contact: Fernando Rodriguez, Communications Director, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, firstname.lastname@example.org
Richmond City Health District, Richmond Public Schools, and Mayor Levar Stoney kickoff the Don’t Wait, Vaccinate! Campaign
Richmond, VA – Richmond City Health District, in partnership with Richmond Public Schools, the Office of Mayor Levar Stoney and community partners including Bon Secours Richmond, Capital Area Health Network, Chesterfield County Public Schools, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, CrossOver Healthcare Ministry, HCA, Health Quality Innovators, Henrico County Public Schools, and VDH – Chesterfield & Henrico Health Districts, will launch the Don’t Wait, Vaccinate! Campaign for the month of August 2020.
The campaign, which takes place during National Immunization Awareness Month, is designed to raise awareness about the importance of vaccinating children on schedule even during COVID-19; educate the public about new vaccination requirements; and connect parents and caregivers to vaccination clinics that offer care at little or no charge.
The campaign kicks off with a press conference on Wednesday, July 29 at 1:00 pm at Diversity Richmond (1407 Sherwood Avenue). Mayor Levar Stoney; Jason Kamras, Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools; and Amy Popovich, Nurse Manager and Director of Community Engagement for Richmond and Henrico Health Districts will introduce the campaign.
Across Virginia, vaccination rates have been down as much as 30% since March 2020, as many families are making every attempt to stay at home and avoid exposure to COVID-19. But even with many children keeping a safe distance from others outside their immediate family, vaccinations are critical to public health. “Vaccines help to maintain herd immunity and protect children against rare and preventable outbreaks of disease that can occur when children don’t receive vaccinations,” says Dr. Danny Avula. “By following the recommended immunization schedule, parents and guardians are protecting their children against serious illnesses not only now, but for the rest of their lives.”
The Virginia Department of Education will require all public school students to have all required immunizations in order to begin the 2020-21 school year even if classes take place virtually. Parents and caregivers must provide proof of immunization to their child’s school district before the school year begins, so updating vaccinations in August is essential.
A new law passed in Virginia this year will also require additional vaccines beginning in the 2021-22 school year: the Hepatitis A and Meningococcal vaccine for all children and the HPV vaccine for boys by sixth grade (the HPV vaccine is already required for girls).
Parents can opt to complete some or all of these vaccines now to offer their children earlier protection and make doctor visits easier for next year.
HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus, which is the most commonly transmitted sexually transmitted disease. At least 50-80% of sexually active adults will be exposed to HPV in their lifetime, and the virus can cause several types of cancer in both men and women. But the HPV vaccine is the only vaccine that can actually prevent cancer. “Here in Richmond we have one of the highest rates of HPV-related cancers in the state,” says Karen Carle, Senior Public Health Nurse for Immunizations and School Health with Richmond City Health District. “But it doesn’t have to be that way! The HPV vaccine can prevent up to 90% of HPV-related cancers, especially when given at the recommended ages of 9-12.”
The Don’t Wait, Vaccinate! Campaign will particularly promote immunizations among preteens and teenagers, as historically these groups have lower vaccination rates than younger children. Residents can also make appointments for flu vaccinations in the fall, which are even more important during the presence of COVID-19, both to maintain a healthy immune system and to reduce the number of serious flu cases that might require hospitalization and place a greater burden on local health systems.
The Richmond City Health District will offer immunization clinics every Monday and Wednesday morning and Tuesday afternoon in August. 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 www.vdh.virginia.gov/richmond-city/a-immunization-program/