LYNCHBURG, Va. – Local health officials are fighting to close the COVID-19 vaccine gap they say stems from the younger generation.
As kids gear up to go back to college this fall, health officials and school leaders are stressing the importance to get more shots in arms.
In many ways, the COVID-19 vaccine will be the golden ticket to a normal fall semester for college students across the board.
“We still have a good number of students who we’ll have to determine whether or not they’ve been vaccinated,” Mike Jones with the University of Lynchburg says.
But getting to that point isn’t easy. At the University of Lynchburg, students must submit proof of vaccination by July 15. It takes two weeks after a second dose to be fully vaccinated, which means students need to act now.
“Those students who don’t comply may be subject to fines,” Jones says. “We may put a hold on their registration. There are consequences.”
Health officials say they’re facing challenges in getting the vaccine to college-age kids.
“In Virginia, at least one vaccine dose in that age group is about 44 percent%,” CVHD Population Health Manager Lindsey Lockewood says. “In Lynchburg, it’s 20 %.”
While Central Virginia sees the biggest challenge in vaccinating the younger generation, there’s still a lot of hesitancy across the commonwealth.
“When you look at August, you might say, ‘That’s still a month and a half away,’” Virginia Tech’s Mark Owczarski says. “But to be fully vaccinated by that time you have to start by July 5.”
Tech requires students to provide proof of vaccination by early August. They say there are several benefits to getting the vaccine, including not having to social distance or quarantine when exposed to the virus.
“In order to be ready for the fall, you really have to act now,” Owczarski says.
Owczarski encourages students who have been vaccinated to submit their vaccine cards now, so they can process them and be ready by the fall.
College students can apply for medical or religious exemptions if they’re not getting the COVID-19 vaccine.