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'Sooner than expected' | Virginia health experts say children under 12 could receive vaccine approval by September

As coronavirus cases spike among the younger crowds, Virginia's vaccine coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula, says vaccine approval for younger kids could be here soon.

NORFOLK, Va. — Cases are rising and hospital beds are filling up across the nation and here in the Commonwealth. Top health experts say this surge is being fueled by the Delta variant.

As children get ready to head back to the classroom, Virginia vaccine coordinators say children ages five to 11 could be approved for the COVID-19 vaccine as early as this September.

"We were expecting this in the fall, around October," said Virginia's Vaccine Coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula. "It looks to be happening a little quicker than we originally expected."

Dr. Avula said his team worked with pediatricians and other physicians throughout the summer to find the best way for children under the age of 12 to be vaccinated.

This comes as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association found nearly 94,000 new COVID-19 cases in children nationwide just last week. The Academy called it a "substantial increase" from the week beforehand.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also pushed for the vaccine to be approved for ages five to 11 as we head into the school year.

According to VDH's data on Hampton Roads, Chesapeake is leading the seven cities in the number of positive test rates among children, making up more than 10% of cases in the city. It falls slightly below the state's average number of children who tested positive.

Dr. Avula says while they expect approval for child vaccinations, they don't have any plans at this time to set requirements for schools, but his team will leave the decision to the General Assembly. He also expects health departments to work closely with the schools, as they have been this past year.

"I very much expect that will continue to be one of the delivery options going into the fall," said Dr. Avula when talking about the schools' efforts.

Avula says despite the expected approval of the vaccine for younger ages, the state continues to recommend schools require masks indoors for both faculty and students to help prevent further spread of the virus. 

He and other state leaders are encouraging people eligible for the vaccine to get their dose ahead of the semester to protect those who cannot yet be vaccinated.

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