Starting Monday, health departments in the Fredericksburg area will offer free COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months and older.

Federal officials approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the youngest patients last week and supplies have been making their way to pharmacies, doctors’ offices and clinics across the country. The Rappahannock Area Health District, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford, will provide the free vaccines for youngsters during regularly scheduled vaccine clinics.

Appointments are not required but highly recommended for the shots, which will be given from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the following days:

  • Mondays:
  • Spotsylvania County Health Department, 9104 Courthouse Road, in the Holbert Building, 540/507-7400.
  • Tuesdays:
  • Fredericksburg Health Department, 608 Jackson St., 540/899-4142, and King George County Health Department, 8097 Kings Highway, in the Village Center, 540/775-3111.
  • Wednesdays:

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  • Stafford County Health Department, 1300 Courthouse Road, in the Courthouse Complex, 540/659-3101; and Caroline County Health Department, 17202 Richmond Turnpike, Milford, 804/633-5465.

Those interested in vaccines for their children do not have to meet any income requirements to get the shots at local health departments. Parents also can search online at vaccines.gov to find pharmacies offering the free vaccine to young patients.

As of Friday, a few Walgreens stores in the Fredericksburg area had the dosage for infants and young children, but locations are being added to the list daily, according to the website.

The Culpeper County Health Department also is offering vaccine clinics for youngsters. To schedule appointments, go to vase.vdh.virginia.gov and enter a ZIP code to get a list of available clinics or call the Rappahannock–Rapidan Health District at 540/308-6072.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children ages 6 months and older who do not have contraindications—conditions that would make it harmful for them to receive a vaccine—to get vaccinated against the virus as soon as possible. Parents are encouraged to talk with their children’s health-care providers about their individual cases.

“Prevention is our best tool for this age group, as other mitigation strategies such as masks and distancing aren’t always practical or recommended for young children,” said April Achter, population health coordinator for the Rappahannock–Rapidan Health District.

In addition, specific treatments such as antivirals are not available for this age group, Achter said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that eligible children be vaccinated, including those who already have had COVID-19. While severe illness among children is rare, 442 youngsters, age 4 and younger, have died from the virus since 2020, according to nationwide statistics.

In addition, COVID-19 has become one of the top 10 leading causes of death among children, according to health officials. Of the children who required hospitalization, 1 in 4 ended up in intensive care and more than half of those who needed to go to the hospital had no underlying conditions, the RRHD reported.

Vaccines for the youngest age group are provided by Pfizer and Moderna. Pfizer’s vaccine comes in three doses; the first two are three weeks apart, then the third is at least 2 months after the second dose. Moderna’s vaccine comes in two doses, 4 weeks apart.

Side effects reported include irritability and drowsiness for infants under 2 years and pain at the injection site, low fever and fatigue for those ages 2 to 5.

As of Friday, the Virginia Department of Health hadn’t reported how many children under 5 had gotten a first shot, but the next youngest group—age 5–11—have the lowest vaccine rates of any in the state. Only 38% of children ages 5–11 are fully vaccinated compared to 70% of older teens, ages 16-17, according to the website.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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