A child in central Virginia has died from COVID-19, the state’s first coronavirus death of a child under the age of 10.
The child died from complications of a chronic health condition and COVID-19, the state health department said in a news release Thursday. The department did not release the name of the child or any other descriptive information.
“Our heartfelt condolences are extended to the family and friends of this child,” state Health Commissioner Norman Oliver said in a statement.
While most children have escaped the virus’s most detrimental effects, Oliver said more than 80 children under the age of 5 across the country have died because of the virus. It has killed more than 180 between ages 5 and 17.
“While fewer cases of COVID-19 are reported in children compared with adults, children are not immune to the disease,” Oliver said. “At a time when vaccination efforts give us reason to be hopeful, we cannot let down our guard.”
Authorities do not plan to immediately vaccinate children.
Nearly 520,000 people nationwide have died from the virus since the pandemic’s onset.
Richmond and Henrico to expand vaccinations
Richmond and Henrico plan to offer vaccines to the entire 1b population later this month, making eligible workers in food and agriculture, manufacturing, grocery stores, public transit and more. The two localities also will open vaccinations to people ages 16 to 64 who live with an underlying condition.
Chesterfield, Hanover and Goochland have not announced when they will expand their 1b vaccinations.
Half the population of Virginia is a member of 1b.
Currently, Richmond and Henrico are offering vaccines to health care workers, emergency responders such as police and firefighters, and teachers and child care workers; 14% of the Richmond and Henrico population has received at least one shot.
Other workers who qualify for 1b and will soon be eligible for shots are mail carriers, public-facing government workers, faith leaders and janitorial workers. The Richmond and Henrico health districts will give employers the opportunity to fill out interest forms for their entire business.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 12 risk factors for people in category 1b that put them at increased risk of severe illness from the virus : cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Down syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised state, obesity, severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking and Type 2 diabetes.
Doses intended for people with underlying conditions mostly will go to primary care providers, said Amy Popovich, nurse manager for the health districts.
Officials are prioritizing recipients based on age, race and lack of suitable insurance. Health care providers who receive vaccines can then prioritize their patients based on severity of the underlying condition.
The health districts have distributed vaccines to primary care providers, safety-net providers, pharmacies, dialysis centers, health systems and urgent-care facilities in hopes of vaccinating the area’s most desperate populations.
The district has given shots to safety-net providers, such as Daily Planet Health Services, with a focus on vaccinating the homeless, immigrants, low-income, uninsured and underinsured.
It has given shots to independent pharmacies, such as Hope Pharmacy in Church Hill.
“Many of the residents in our community walk to our pharmacy because they do not have transportation,” said Shantelle Brown, the pharmacy’s owner.
It has given shots to health systems and primary care providers, including the Virginia Commonwealth University Health Hub in Richmond’s East End and the Bon Secours Care-a-Van for South Richmond’s Latino community.
All shot-givers were directed to prioritize recipients who already qualify as members of 1b.
Walk-ins are not accepted at any location. To request a vaccine, residents can fill out an interest form at vaccinate.virginia.gov or schedule an appointment with CVS.
Brown has heard talk about Black communities being reticent to receive the vaccine. But so far, she hasn’t seen it. Instead, she’s seen enthusiasm from Church Hill residents.
“It has been totally opposite,” she said. “I am interested to see how it will be with our younger generation.”
The health districts will begin distributing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Monday. Health officials understand the hesitancy to receive the one-dose vaccine, because its immediate efficacy rate is lower than that of Pfizer and Moderna.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85% effective in preventing severe disease 28 days after injection. But after seven weeks, its effectiveness grew to 100%.
Residents who do not want a Johnson & Johnson vaccine can wait until a Pfizer or Moderna dose becomes available. But health officials don’t advise it.
The best vaccine is the one you can get first, said Cat Long, a spokeswoman for the Richmond and Henrico health districts.
“We recommend all three — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — equally,” she said.