Kathy Hochul

NYC Starts Vaccinating Young Kids Thursday, Big School Effort Planned; State Addresses Confusion

New York City says city-run vaccine sites will start providing COVID shots to kids age 5-11 on Thursday, while some of the first shots in New Jersey will be administered at Kearny's Thru Vax center later Wednesday

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What to Know

  • New York and New Jersey said they're prepared to deliver Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to more than 2.2 million kids aged 5-11 as CDC gave final clearance. Shots will start being administered Wednesday
  • Millions of shots made by Pfizer have already been shipped to states, doctors’ offices and pharmacies
  • New York has pre-ordered more than 380,000 doses that could be ready within 24 hours, Gov. Kathy Hochul previously said. New Jersey ordered more than 203,000 doses, according to state health officials

Kids ages 5 to 11 are expected to start getting Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in parts of New York and New Jersey as early as Wednesday, a day after the CDC gave final clearance for the lower-dose shots to be administered to children in that age group.

New York City-run vaccine sites will start administering vaccines to that age group on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, giving those kids more than plenty of time to be fully protected before Christmas -- and get some protection before Thanksgiving.

"Tomorrow's going to be a historic day for this city in our fight against COVID as we reach our youngest New Yorkers," the mayor said Wednesday.

Starting next week, de Blasio said every public school that serves children aged 5 to 11 will have a dedicated vaccination day for the newly eligible students. That amounts to about 1,070 school vaccination sites over the course of the week and about 200 school sites daily. Every child will have a chance to get dosed, he added.

Children must have a parent or guardian with them at the time. Verbal consent can also be provided by phone, de Blasio said.

"There's no wrong door here. We just want to get as many kids vaccinated as quickly as we can," said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.

Millions of shots made by Pfizer have already been shipped to states, doctors’ offices and pharmacies, which also began accepting appointments for kids early Wednesday. The state of New York has pre-ordered more than 380,000 doses that could be ready within 24 hours, Gov. Kathy Hochul has said.

As a slew of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds raced to schedule appointments on the state website, though, many encountered a critical problem: A message saying their children weren't yet eligible to receive vaccines and to check back later.

Officials later explained that while the CDC did approve emergency use of Pfizer's lower-dose vaccine for the youngest kids, the agency had yet to deliver guidance that accompanied previous age and risk groups. Providers who do have the proper dosage now are legally permitted to begin administering doses, but some appeared to be awaiting a letter from the state health department with further instruction.

The CDC director's endorsement of the vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 came hours after an advisory panel unanimously recommended its use.

Some pediatricians have been overwhelmed with calls for appointments. Uptown Pediatrics in Manhattan sent a letter to families, stating "we do not yet have the vaccine in our office. We placed an order last week and are awaiting confirmation about when the vaccine would be delivered. We will not schedule appointments until we have it."

Meanwhile, the New York State COVID Task Force met after Wednesday's hearing and did agree with the CDC's decision -- so no legal hurdles remain, only administrative and logistical ones.

In a statement later Wednesday, a health department spokesperson told News 4, "New York State will waste no time in helping get shots administered to children ages 5-11 through all available channels so that New York parents and guardians can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Providers can start administering pediatric doses for 5-11 year-olds today, as long as they have pediatric doses on hand and are administering the vaccines according to the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization and the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine provider agreement."

Over in New Jersey, officials pre-ordered more than 203,000 doses, though parents are awaiting a more cohesive timeline as to when the Garden State's more than 230 state-run sites will begin administering COVID vaccine doses to their kids.

Gov. Phil Murphy did tweet a message noting that kids aged 5 to 11 were eligible for vaccination effective immediately and urged New Jersey parents to get started.

For weeks, both states have been preparing for the vaccine's approval in the youngest age group yet. Hochul said Tuesday that more guidance was forthcoming and urged parents to reach out to their pediatricians to prepare and schedule shots. Some providers, including large ones like Tribeca Pediatrics, sent email blasts to families encouraging them to sign up, but their appointment websites were down.

Ultimately, officials had said they expected a significant crush of parents seeking vaccinations for kids age 5-11, so some of the Day 1 headaches are to be expected. Those should be cleared up within a day or so, if past experience is a guide.

The Democratic governor and her top epidemiologist last week laid out their detailed plans to deliver hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses to kids aged 5-11.

That includes more than 231,000 pre-ordered shots for New York City alone -- and covers a variety of providers, from public health facilities to hospitals, pediatric offices, independent pharmacies and other groups ready to handle what Hochul anticipates will be an at least "initial crush" of interest.

Hochul encouraged parents and caregivers who have questions about the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine to solicit answers from their trusted sources now. And she presented one source she says can be trusted, the state's director of epidemiology and a mother of three, with two kids ages 5 to 11, to make the point.

That woman is Dr. Emily Lutterloh, and she will head the state's efforts to vaccinate kids in that age group, which includes more than 1.5 million. Hochul said Lutterloh will also spearhead the state's campaign to convince parents to at least have the vaccine discussion with pediatricians and other experts in whom they trust.

Doses Ordered for Children 5-11
These are the pre-ordered vaccine doses broken down by provider.

"We all want to get back to normal and the fastest way to do that is to start vaccinating this group," said Lutterloh, who has decades of medical research experience and doctorate expertise. "We need pediatricians to talk to parents and encourage those who are eligible to get it ... It makes sense to get it done."

Lutterloh suggested parents ask their pediatrician if the vaccine is available, ask any questions and then make their appointments. She separately encouraged pediatricians to start scheduling those appointments and reach out to the state with questions. Informational webinars will be set up to assist in preparation also.

Parents of young kids who went through the vaccine clinical trials also have the same advice: talk to your pediatrician. They say getting their kids vaccinated was the best decision they made.

Many of them were hesitant, they told NBC New York in interviews early this week. That goes along with national surveys that have shown that only a third of parents are plenning to vaccinate their children right away. Many of those who spoke to News 4 had the same questions other parents are asking, such as what are the side effects, and if they're the same as the ones in adults?

For Jennifer Barsi's daughter, she had "mild swelling and redness" to the area where the shot was given. "The exact same way they responded to all other vaccines they've gotten in childhood," she added.

Across the board, parents told News 4 that the side effects were similar to adults.

"This is how we can protect them. We're heading into a time when more kids are indoors, exposed, tired of wearing masks. We know once they get this vaccine they'll be safe," Hochul said last week in preparation of the approval.

The Democrat said the state has been in talks with various provider types for weeks now regarding planning, which will involve health centers, pediatric offices, state health partners and school-based programs. Hochul said more than 350 school districts have already indicated they plan to host vaccine events for kids aged 5-11.

"We've asked school districts to tell us how they want to do it," she said. "There are lots of ways to do it."

For now, the governor expects to rely mainly on pediatric offices to carry out the bulk of the vaccinations for kids aged 5-11, given the trust and relationship factor with individual families and their larger communities. She says she could easily scale up mass vaccination sites again, but doesn't expect that demand to be there.

"I think that most parents are going to feel most comfortable in a place where they know the person administering that shot, especially for the younger kids ... so we are going to let the pediatrician offices handle this for now," Hochul said, adding that she does anticipate schools to be a significant part of the equation as well.

Asked whether she expects vaccine mandates to become part of the program for eligible-age students, Hochul echoed sentiments she made since before she was sworn in as governor: "That is a possibility. It is on the table."

"I want to empower parents and the schools to do the right thing first, but if we are not seeing adequate compliance or we start seeing the numbers starting to go up — this is what we are monitoring closely — if I start seeing the infection rate going up, hospitalization rates going up, more children being affected, I will have no choice," Hochul said. "But right now, the numbers are good. Parents will hopefully do the right thing and I will keep an eye out on that situation."

The mandate question has become a topic of consideration for the Fall 2022 school year, Hochul has said, but she reiterated she wouldn't shy away from making a move sooner if needed. She hopes it doesn't come to that. Currently, there are no COVID vaccination mandates for students in New York's public schools.

Mayor de Blasio, whose administration oversees the nation's largest public school district in New York City, has said he opposes such mandates for kids at this point. After the challenges of the last year and a half, he says he wants kids in class.

Over in New Jersey, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said last week that they "will be prepared to vaccinate younger children.'' There are approximately 760,000 children in the 5- to 11-year-old age range in the state.

Persichilli said that sites will start receiving shipments of the vaccine for children "as soon as the approval is granted." All 21 counties in the state will have sites ready to begin vaccinating children.

U.S. health advisers have endorsed kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for young children. The vote Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration panel moves the nation closer to vaccinating children ages 5 to 11. NBC New York's Anjali Hemphill reports.

Last month, the FDA review affirmed results from Pfizer showing the two-dose shot was nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infection in young children. Researchers calculated the figure based on 16 COVID-19 cases in youngsters given dummy shots versus three cases among vaccinated children.

There were no severe illnesses reported among any of the youngsters, but the vaccinated ones had much milder symptoms than their unvaccinated counterparts.

Most of the study data was collected in the U.S. during August and September, when the delta variant had become the dominant COVID-19 strain.

The FDA review found no new or unexpected side effects. Those that did occur mostly consisted of sore arms, fever or achiness.

However, FDA scientists noted that the study wasn't large enough to detect extremely rare side effects, including myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second dose.

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers

Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC

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