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Fairfax County sees uptick in COVID-19 cases as thousands of kids get first vaccine shot

First lady Jill Biden visited Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean to launch the national rollout of the COVID-19 pediatric vaccine (photo by Donnie Biggs/FCPS)

More than 16% of children in the Fairfax Health District have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine dose since the shots became available to them on Nov. 3.

As of today (Monday), 17,578 of the district’s over 108,000 residents between the ages of 5 and 11 have received their first dose of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech regimen, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine data dashboard.

Fairfax County COVID-19 vaccinations by age as of Nov. 15, 2021 (via Fairfax County Health Department)

After formally kicking off its pediatric vaccine rollout with first lady Jill Biden last week, FCHD announced on Thursday (Nov. 11) that it will host a series of vaccine clinics specifically for this age group at nine public elementary schools starting tomorrow (Tuesday).

According to the county health department, it is working on the 19 scheduled school-based clinics with Fairfax County Public Schools, the Virginia Department of Health, Giant Pharmacy, and Ashbritt/IEM, the same contractor partnership that operates the mass vaccination site at Tysons Corner Center.

“Capacity at each clinic is expected to be 150 doses,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said by email. “In the event supply is exhausted at a particular event, our staff will assist families onsite to make an appointment at a nearby vaccine provider.”

For now, the clinics will all take place after school hours or on the weekend, though FCPS officials have said they plan to eventually make vaccinations available when students are in school as well, likely after their winter break.

Unlike at the county’s mass vaccination sites, which have temporarily suspended walk-ins, appointments are not needed for the school clinics, but children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

According to Caldwell, the schools that will host the clinics were chosen by FCPS and county health department staff based on data showing areas with “higher rates of COVID-19 illness but less access to sites offering vaccine for children ages 5-11.”

However, every clinic is open to all children regardless of whether they attend that particular school.

Vaccinations for all ages can still be scheduled at health department sites, Inova, private healthcare providers, and various community sites like grocery stores and pharmacies through vaccines.gov.

Overall, at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose has been administered to 855,751 residents of the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. That amounts to 72.3% of all residents, including 83.7% of people aged 18 and older.

762,954 residents, or 64.5% of the population, are now fully vaccinated, including 76.4% of adults.

While vaccinations have helped reduce the pandemic’s threat, they haven’t extinguished it entirely.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days, as of Nov. 15, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

After dropping to 58.7 cases last Wednesday (Nov. 10), the lowest point since July 24, when the Delta variant first took hold, Fairfax County’s weekly average has ticked up over the past few days and now sits at 77.1 cases per day, according to VDH data.

With 93 new cases today, the Fairfax Health District has reported 94,770 COVID-19 cases total. 4,390 residents have been hospitalized by the novel coronavirus, and 1,219 people have died.

While it’s too soon to tell whether the rise in cases is a blip or the start of another surge, past patterns and a resurgence of the virus in Europe have health experts reiterating the need to vaccinate as many people as possible, with the winter holidays and cold weather approaching.

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