With cases on the rise, updated Covid vaccines added for kids under 5

Fairfax Health District COVID-19 cases over the past 26 weeks, as of Dec. 15, 2022 (via VDH)

Vaccines designed to combat omicron subvariants of COVID-19 are now available in Fairfax County for everyone 6 months and older.

The Fairfax County Health Department has obtained updated or bivalent vaccines for kids 6 months to 5 years old after federal health officials approved the shots to that age group last week.

The shots became available to people 12 and older in August, and eligibility expanded to kids 5 to 11 years old in October.

“The updated vaccines provide protection from both the original virus strain as well as the more recently circulating Omicron variant,” the FCHD said. “Getting the updated booster dose is important because protection decreases over time and as the virus changes.”

Time is running out, though, to get shots from the county’s mass Covid vaccine clinics. As announced last month, the clinic at the Hyland South County Center administered its last dose yesterday (Wednesday), and the Fairfax County Government Center clinic will close at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 17).

The county will still distribute Covid vaccines, but after Saturday, those seeking an appointment at one of the health department’s district offices must contact their call center at 703-324-7404. Other options for getting a shot can be found at vaccines.gov.

Kids under 5 can get the bivalent vaccine as either a booster if they’ve gotten the Moderna vaccine or the third dose in their “primary series” of Pfizer vaccinations.

“Children 6 months-4 years who already completed their three-dose primary series with the original Pfizer vaccine are not eligible for an updated booster dose at this time,” the department said. “The data to support giving an updated bivalent booster dose to these children are expected in January.”

It’s now been almost two years since the county received its first Covid vaccine shipment. In that time, more than 2.8 million doses have been administered to residents of the Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.

Over 1 million residents — 85.9% of the population — have gotten at least one dose, including:

  • 93% of people 18 and older
  • 99% of 16-17 year olds
  • 95.6% of 12-15 year olds
  • 64% of 5-11 year olds

However, just 21.9% of kids under 5 have received a dose, per FCHD data. While the vaccines don’t provide complete protection against contracting Covid, they lower the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and both short and long-term complications from the disease, health officials say.

All Fairfax Health District COVID-19 cases, as of Dec. 15, 2022 (via VDH)

The expansion of eligibility for the bivalent vaccines comes as COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District continue to rise post-Thanksgiving, jumping from a seven-day average of 120.4 cases on Nov. 26 to 249.3 cases today, according to Virginia Department of Health data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rate the county’s community Covid level as low based on a case rate of 130.11 per 100,000 residents, a hospitalization rate of 7.7 new admissions per 100,000 residents, and 5.2% of hospital beds being occupied by confirmed Covid patients.

The district is averaging a death per day for the past week, reporting a total death toll of 1,717 people for the pandemic. There have been 253,907 cases and 5,209 hospitalizations due to Covid.

According to the FCHD, testing has increased recently, even as Curative closes its mobile sites in the county today. But the testing positivity rate has climbed from under 10% at the end of October to 17.2%, as of Dec. 4, indicating “a true increase in disease,” a spokesperson told FFXnow.

Though still far below last winter’s surge with the omicron variant’s arrival, the uptick in cases throughout the D.C. region has Montgomery County in Maryland recommending that residents resume wearing face masks. Neighboring Arlington County and Alexandria City are also seeing cases increase.

Fairfax County hasn’t made any changes to its health guidance, but with the flu and other respiratory illnesses also in the air, the FCHD still advises residents to consider masking, especially if they have symptoms, along with other habits that help prevent sickness:

As people spend more time indoors, where there is more crowding and less ventilation, and where there is less attention to other mitigation efforts (distancing/masking/handwashing), it is not surprising to see respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, flu and other viruses spread. The health department continues to encourage these everyday prevention steps, in addition to staying up to date on COVID-19 boosters as the variants change, and flu shots for everyone over age 6 months. Simply staying home when ill makes a big difference in community transmission, too.

With Covid transmission increasing nationally, the White House has relaunched its program offering four free at-home testing kits per household through covid.gov/testing.

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