New River Health District Logo



Dr. Noelle Bissell, Director of the New River Health District, has announced that they expect the Pfizer COVID vaccine to be authorized under Emergency Use for the 5–11-year-old population in the coming weeks. Initial allocations of the vaccine will be shipped to local health departments, where some shots will be administered and other doses of the vaccine will be redistributed to local pharmacies and pediatric/family medicine partners for administration.


“SARS CoV-2 has infected approximately 166,000 people and hospitalized approximately 1,150 people between the ages of 0-19 statewide,” Bissell stated. “In our southwest districts, we have seen the following numbers: Cumberland Plateau (2,300 infections/9 hospitalizations); Lenowisco (2,400/11); Mt. Rogers (4,700/21) and New River (4,900/5). We have had one death in the 0-19 age group in the southwest. There have been 15 deaths statewide in that age group.”


The New River Health District is attempting to gauge parental intent to vaccinate students in this age group in order to effectively plan their distribution strategy for the vaccine. An electronic survey has been posted to help them gather that information. Participation in the survey is voluntary, but participation will help New River Health District officials better plan their distribution strategy and avoid potential shortages in areas with higher demand.


“Public health will always promote prevention over infection; and we have a safe, effective vaccine to prevent SARS CoV-2 infection,” Dr. Bissell stated. “While the vaccine is not perfect, it does prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death very well. Unvaccinated adolescents are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated ones. Significant side effects from the vaccine are uncommon and will occur in the first eight weeks after vaccination; side effects from SARS CoV-2 infection can present months to over a year later. While the infection is low risk to most young, healthy children, it’s not zero risk. When there is more disease circulating, the risk of children becoming infected is higher, and that increases their risk of adverse outcomes. We encourage anyone with questions or concerns to speak with their pediatrician/family physician or the health department.”


Those wishing to participate in the survey may do so at this LINK. For other COVID-19 or health related information from the Virginia Department of Health and New River Health District, visit