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CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

As infections drop, vaccinations also follow a steep decline

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Daily cases of COVID-19 are dropping steadily across Virginia, but there’s another decline that’s even more steep: vaccinations.

Currently, the commonwealth is administering about the same number of daily COVID-19 inoculations as late December 2020 when the shots of protection first rolled out to a very small group.

In Danville and Pittsylvania County, only about half the population is fully vaccinated against the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, a figure that has barely budged over recent months. When it comes to boosters, fewer than 1-in-3 city residents have received the extra dose and only about 26% of county residents have rolled up their sleeves again.

Locally, the weather — or in some cases just a threat of problems — cancelled public vaccination clinics offered by the health department in January, Linda Scarborough, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health, recently told the Register & Bee.

While that may have played a part in the drop, pharmacies provide the overwhelming number of shots throughout the state.

“Overall, the Virginia Department of Health will continue to offer clinics throughout the districts and strive to educate the public, especially those who may be vaccine hesitant,” she said.

Vaccinations

A satellite vaccination operation visits Stonewall Recreation Center in Danville in April 2021.

According to the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute, the majority of people hospitalized with the omicron variant — the latest strain of the coronavirus that sent daily infection rates soaring — were unvaccinated. In fact, those who received a booster dose fared better in the surge than those considered only fully vaccinated.

“Evidence suggests a three dose vaccine regime is more protective against hospitalization and death than the initial two dose series,” UVa researchers wrote in an interim report Friday. “It may also offer longer lasting, more durable immunity.”

Dr. Scott Spillmann, director of the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District, believes there are a few reasons vaccinations have declined in recent months.

“The primary omicron variant has peaked in some places and is peaking or nearly so in others; some might not perceive the same level of threat from this variant as they had with delta,” he recently said, in addition to blaming the weather situation.

When omicron first emerged, health officials saw an uptick in vaccinations, especially boosters.

Also, hesitancy is still a hurdle to overcome.

“We encourage all who have questions about the vaccines to seek credible, trusted sources for information, including personal health care providers, pharmacists, hospitals, and health departments,” he wrote in an email. “Get your questions answered; be your own best advocate.”

It’s the youngest age group that has the fewest number of vaccinations. For the overall district, only 1-in-10 children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated.

“The older age groups as well as those medically vulnerable have had the most time to become vaccinated and therefore have the highest vaccination percentages,” Spillmann said when asked about the lower inoculation numbers in children. “We will continue to actively offer vaccines to all eligible groups for the foreseeable future; hopefully this will help all the numbers increase.”

On Monday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin released a public service announcement pushing for Virginians to get vaccinated.

“I have always been a strong advocate for everyone to get the vaccine,” he said in a statement. “We know that the vaccine is the best protection against severe illness as a result of COVID-19.”

Youngkin, who is vaccinated, also stressed it’s a personal decision for everyone.

“After a heartbreaking pandemic, getting vaccinated can insure that there are better days ahead for Virginia,” he said.

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