RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made a stop at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond to celebrate National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) Thursday afternoon.

Gov. Northam is recognizing August as immunization awareness month in Virginia. ImmunizeVA, a statewide coalition of immunization stakeholders, received the Governor’s Proclamation in recognition of the month.

Northam’s message to parents was simple: make sure your children are caught up on their shots.

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to align Virginia’s immunization requirements with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations. Without important immunizations, students may not be able to start school on time or daycare.

Northam said that due to the pandemic, many families did not get their children vaccinated, but as school approaches or has already begun for some, Northam is encouraging parents to make sure their children’s shots are up to date.

“Back to School is a great time for students of all ages to visit their pediatrician,” Governor Ralph S. Northam, M.D., a pediatrician said in a release. “During these check-ups, babies, children and adolescents can receive their routine immunizations to ensure we have a healthy school year. It is also a good idea for everyone eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to get the life-saving shot.”

The Virginia Department of Health provides free immunization through the Virginia Vaccines for Children program. Families can find providers here or can visit their local health department to access free resources.

Dr. Avula said the last year and a half has really impacted the state’s vaccination rates for other preventable diseases.

“We have largely caught up … but are facing a severe deficit in children and adolescents,” Dr. Avula said.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is available for children ages 12 and up. Anyone age 12 or older can find free vaccination clinics near them by visiting or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA.