Brought to you by the Rappahannock Area Health District
As we celebrate the progress the world has made in the fight against COVID-19, it’s understandable for parents to have questions about how best to keep kids and adults healthy in this new era of our life with the virus. The Rappahannock Area Health District (RAHD) is here with answers on some of the most common questions parents have.
While COVID-19 has received much of the focus of disease-prevention strategies in recent years, the end of many COVID-prevention behaviors means families should be extra vigilant about other seasonal illnesses, such as influenza, this year.
Fortunately, many of the strategies—vaccinations, hand washing and staying home when sick—that have helped control the spread of COVID are also the best tools we have to prevent many other illnesses. Here, Erin Perkins, RAHD’s COVID Response Team Coordinator, offers the most up-to-date information for parents, and the best sources to monitor for guidance as we enter the colder months.
Fred Parent: What are the key strategies for staying healthy that families should focus on at this point in the pandemic?
RAHD: Vaccination remains the best line of defense. This goes for both COVID-19 and influenza. Flu shots are widely available at pediatricians’ offices, pharmacies and the Health District’s five offices in Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is now available starting at 6 months of age. Whether you are looking for a primary series of vaccinations or a booster for yourself or your children, call your pediatrician or consult the RAHD immunizations schedule at vdh.virginia.gov/rappahannock/ and call your local health department to make an appointment.
In addition to getting vaccinated, the best strategies are really the same things we have talked about all along. Washing your hands frequently will prevent the spread of illness.
Staying home when you are sick will help keep COVID-19 and other illnesses from spreading. Following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines on when to test for COVID-19 can help control community spread. While masks are no longer required in schools and other settings, they are still an option to protect yourself and others, and they should be worn if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
Fred Parent: Do children need boosters to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19?
RAHD: This information continues to evolve, as new boosters gain FDA approval. It’s always a good idea to check the latest CDC guidance on what it means to be fully vaccinated. At this time, the guidance for different age groups is:
- Children ages 6 months through 4 years should get all COVID-19 primary series doses. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are available for this age group. No booster is currently available for this age group.
- Everyone ages 5 and up should get both the primary doses and the booster dose recommended by the CDC, based on their age.
- Children ages 5 to 11 years are currently recommended to get the original booster shot, known as the monovalent booster. Only the Pfizer monovalent booster is available for this age group. Children should get this booster at least 5 months after their primary series.
- Everyone 12 years of age or older is recommended to receive one updated Pfizer or Moderna booster, known as the bivalent booster. The bivalent booster should be administered at least 2 months after a primary series or monovalent booster shot. At this time, children ages 12 to 17 can only receive the updated Pfizer bivalent booster.
The Virginia Department of Health has the most up-to-date information on which vaccine your child should receive, including special considerations for immunocompromised individuals and other vaccine recommendations at vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine/
The Rappahannock Area Health District has bivalent booster shots available. Bivalent boosters specifically target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant, providing better overall protection. Appointments are required. Area pharmacies are also beginning to carry this updated booster shot.
Fred Parent: Can a child get a flu shot and a COVID-19 shot at the same time, or should they be spaced out?
RAHD: They can be given at the same time, on the same visit to a doctor, pharmacy or local health department.
That’s really important, because getting the flu shot is perhaps even more important this year than it has been for the past two years. Because masking and social distancing are dropping off in public settings, many experts believe we could face a more serious flu season this year.
The flu shot does take about two weeks to provide full protection, so October is an important time to be getting these immunizations to be protected throughout the flu season.
Fred Parent: When should individuals be tested for COVID-19?
RAHD: The clearest guidance on testing comes from the CDC, which says:
- If you have symptoms, test immediately.
- If you were exposed to COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms, wait at least 5 full days after your exposure before testing to ensure an accurate result.
- If you are in certain high-risk settings, you may be required to test as part of a screening program.
- Consider testing before contact with someone at high risk for severe COVID-19, such as the elderly and immunocompromised.
Fred Parent: What should parents do if their child tests positive for COVID-19?
RAHD: Your child will need to stay home from school and all other public settings for five days. Children should stay away from others in the home as much as is practical, but we know this is tricky with children, who often need that comfort from a parent during sickness. After five days, if symptoms are gone or resolving, you can leave the house. Consult with your school about specific requirements for returning.
If your child is experiencing symptoms, you can call your pediatrician to discuss whether they may be eligible for any available therapeutic treatments. Mostly, you’ll want to help your child stay comfortable, while monitoring for any red flags. The following are signs that you should seek emergency medical attention:
- Trouble breathing.
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
- New confusion.
- Inability to wake or stay awake.
- Pale, gray or bluish lips or nail beds.
The Rappahannock Area Health District is an important resource for families to stay up-to-date about COVID-19 and influenza this fall and winter. Bookmark vdh.virginia.gov/rappahannock/ to get the latest information about vaccinations, CDC recommendations and more.