FAIRMONT — Two sisters were the first kids in the 5-11 age group to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the Marion County Health Department.

Willa Wilson brought her two great-granddaughters to the health department Thursday to get their COVID vaccines. Nabreia, 10-years-old and the older of the two, hopped into the chair first and hardly hesitated.

“These two are the first of their group [to be vaccinated],” said Megan Payne, director of nursing for the health department. “We’re super excited to see the turnout from the community wanting to get their kids vaccinated. We work together well in all areas and this has been no different.”

After giving Nabreia her shot, Payne asked, “How’d I do?”

“Good,” Nabreia said, “I didn’t feel anything.”

Journey, the younger sister at 7-years-old, hopped up into the chair next and took the jab without a flinch. Both the sisters received a lollipop for their cooperation.

After the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID, it was apparent that children were as immune to the virus as was once believed. Lloyd White, administrator of the Marion County Health Department, suggests families consider getting their kids vaccinated.

“We know that children can get COVID, they can transmit it, so if we can stop that chain of transmissions we can decrease the number of cases, if we decrease the number of cases, we can decrease the number of deaths,” White said. “Vaccines are the best of the preventative measures we can take.”

Many parents were worried about sending children back to school, especially if their child wasn’t eligible for the vaccine. Now that the vaccine is openly available to anyone 5-years-old and up, officials hope that eases parents’ minds.

While the vaccine is effective at preventing transmission, it’s real purpose is preventing severe symptoms, hospitalization and death.

“The real risk [of COVID] is death, and that’s the real value in the vaccine,” White said. “It’s really designed to prevent deaths and prevent hospitalizations. I hate to think we’re losing people that we shouldn’t lose just because they weren’t vaccinated... but we are.”

However, total case numbers around the state are dropping from the highs of September, according to data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Hospitalizations and deaths have decreased but are still far above the low levels enjoyed over the summer.

At the county level, Marion County is still in the red on the DHHR COVID Alert Map. Over the last week, five Marion County residents have died from COVID-19 and there are currently 283 active cases in the county.

“We’re seeing a leveling of the cases and a leveling or a decrease in the number of deaths,” White said. “However, we’re still seeing, in my opinion, far more cases than I’d like to be seeing and far more than we should see.”

As the holiday season approaches in the coming weeks, it’s important to watch out for what White called “COVID fatigue.”

“We end up letting our guard down and take more risks than we’d usually take,” White said. “It’s still a good idea to avoid crowds, cough and sneeze etiquette, wear a mask and most importantly get vaccinated.”

The health department has an easy-to-use online portal to schedule a vaccine appointment. Visit wvumedicine.org/info/marion-vaccine or call the health department at 304-366-3360.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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