At this point in the year it’s clear that vaccines for the coronavirus are the way that the state, the nation, and the world will recover and emerge from the pandemic. That’s why the New River Health District continues to go to community events, housing developments, convenience stores, and farmers markets, offering vaccines to anyone who will take them.

“Every single vaccine that we give is one step closer to getting our community fully protected,” said Noelle Bissell, the district’s health director. “That’s the way we’re keeping the numbers down.”

During a meeting with members of the news media on June 14, Bissell explained that cases of COVID-19 are hovering in the low single digits throughout the district. Even so, the health district still offers COVID-19 tests and encourages people to wash their hands often and to stay home when they are sick.

Those who are not vaccinated for the coronavirus should continue to avoid crowded spaces, close contact with others, and closed spaces.

“We’re thrilled that we are seeing such low numbers, but we all have to remember that COVID is not totally eliminated at this point,” Bissell said.

She offered a percentage breakdown, by age group, of those in the district who are fully vaccinated. At 73 percent, people ages 70 and older comprise the highest percentage of all of the age groups who are fully vaccinated. They are followed by those who are 60 to 69 years old at 60 percent fully vaccinated. At the lowest percentage, 14 percent of young adults ages 12 to 19 are fully vaccinated.

“We do expect over the summer as time passes that more people will decide to get their vaccine,” Bissell said, explaining that many people have said they waited to be vaccinated until they observed how family and friends reacted to the vaccine.

The decision by Virginia Tech and other universities in the state to require COVID-19 vaccinations for students in the fall “makes sense," she said.

“To get our college kids back to a normal experience, it’s an important step,” she said. “We know that it’s a safe and effective vaccine. We know that many cases were through college students and their social activities.”

She reminded people that the vaccines not only protect the vaccinated, but they guard against transmitting the coronavirus to others.

Bissell said it is not yet known if there will be a need for people to receive boosters to the COVID-19 vaccine in the future. Experts continue to study how long immunity to the coronavirus will last with the vaccine.

No matter the decision, the health district will continue to promote the importance of vaccination and will follow all guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The vaccine is our way out of the pandemic,” Bissell said.

By Jenny Kincaid Boone

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