Northam announced everyone 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine April 18 Northam announced everyone 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine April 18

RICHMOND – All Virginians ages 16 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 18.

“Expanding vaccine eligibility to all adults marks an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to put this pandemic behind us,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Northam announced this expansion in eligibility for the vaccine on Thursday. According to the governor’s press release, over 3.7 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to Virginians so far. More than one in three adults in Virginia have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Also, one in five Virginians are fully vaccinated, Northam says.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel. And that light is getting brighter every day, as more and more Virginians get vaccinated,” Northam said.

This change in eligibility is in line with President Joe Biden’s nationwide goal of making every adult in the US eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

Vaccinating Children and Adolescents

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adolescents ages 16-17 are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. There is not sufficient data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine on this age group. However, the CDC says “there is no biologically plausible reasons for safety and efficacy profiles to differ from those observed in people 18 years of age or older.”

Children and adolescents younger than 16 can not yet receive the Pfizer vaccine yet. However, that may change soon.

On Wednesday, Pfizer announced its trials on children aged 12-15 have demonstrated that their COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective on that age group.

“We share the urgency to expand the authorization of our vaccine to use in younger populations, and are encouraged by the clinical trial data from adolescents between the ages of twelve and fifteen,” said Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer. “We plan to submit this data to FDA as a proposed amendment to our emergency use authorization in the coming weeks, and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year.”

According to a Pfizer’s announcement, the vaccine was well tolerated by participants in the trial. 1,131 adolescents received a dose of the vaccine in the Pfizer trial.

Anyone under the age of 18 can not yet receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, both companies are currently engaging in clinical trials testing the effectiveness and safety of their vaccines on children and adolescents.

RELATED: Moderna Launches Clinical Trials For Children’s Vaccine in Richmond

Inequitable Distribution in Virginia

Northam’s announcement says “Virginia has focused on equity throughout its vaccination effort.”

However, the Commonwealth’s distribution of vaccinations is not yet equitable.

The Virginia Department of Health says 991,535 white Virginians have received at least one dose. In comparison, only 208,494 Black people and 111,507 LatinX people in Virginia have received a dose. That’s not representative of the demographic population of Virginia. In the Commonwealth, 69.4% of residents are white, 19.9% are Black, and 9.8% are LatinX, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Screen-Shot-2021-04-01-at-10.18.56-PM
Source: Virginia Department of Health

“We continue to work with diverse providers and community partners across the Commonwealth to distribute vaccines in a fair and equitable way and ensure those at the highest risk are vaccinated first.”

How to Pre-Register for the Vaccine

All Virginians should pre-register to receive a vaccination now that everyone will be eligible for the shot soon, Northam says.

To pre-register, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call (877) 829-4682. Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages. Videoconferencing in American Sign Language is also available at vaccinate.virginia.gov.