NYC Kicks Off Huge Kids' COVID Vaccine Drive — With New Paid Leave Option for Parents

To ensure parents don't have to worry about work hours lost to get their kids inoculated, Mayor Bill de Blasio says every city worker and contractor gets four hours of paid leave per child per vaccine dose. Non-city workers are expected to be able to apply for the paid leave retroactively

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What to Know

  • NYC's in-school vaccination drive serving kids age 5 to 11 in more than 1,000 buildings citywide kicks off Monday and runs through next Monday; no appointments are needed but kids need a guardian
  • Verbal consent can also be provided by the phone, the mayor said; it's just one of a number of vaccination options to encourage parents to get their kids dosed -- and protected in time for the holidays
  • News 4 New York learned of reports that some city schools quickly ran out of shots. In one instance, one site only distributed 50 doses before running out.

New York City public schools kick off a series of in-school vaccination drives Monday, creating pop-ups in more than 1,000 buildings that serve students aged 5 to 11 as part of a week-long effort to dose the newly eligible with Pfizer's shot.

That amounts to roughly 200 school sites a day between now and next Monday.

Parents can already take their kids to get the Pfizer shot at city-run vaccine sites, where their kids are eligible for $100 incentives, pharmacies and private providers. Appointments are recommended but not required. Walk-ins are accepted.

More than 16,700 New York City kids age 5 to 11 have gotten inoculated against COVID since the CDC recommended the lower-dose shots be administered to younger children last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

And he expects that number to climb quickly. Although, the effort to inoculate the newly eligible has seen a setback along the way.

Parents at a number of New York City public schools were in line very early Monday morning to give their newly-eligible children the COVID-19 shot. However, city schools apparently got more than they bargained for as News 4 New York was made aware of reports that some schools quickly ran out of shots.

Dozens of parents walked their kids to school with the hopes they would be partially vaccinated against COVID-19 before lunchtime. As the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was walked on to the playground at P.S. 261 parents applauded the health care workers. But those same cheers turned into concerns when the vaccine distributor ran out of vaccines in less than an hour.

The city said that 200 schools opened vaccine sites on Monday, and a few ran out of doses while other faced delays. A total of 1,000 school pop-up sites are scheduled to open this week.

The Department of Education has been making a big push this week to get all students age 5 and older an opportunity to get their COVID-19 vaccine. Sites like one in Boerum Hill in Brooklyn only received 50 doses Monday morning, and saw the line for vaccines wrap around the corner. It seems other locations also experienced a shortage.

NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said that "if for whatever reason parents are unable to get an appointment at their child's school, there is vaccine available at our city-run sites as well as at pharmacies around the five boroughs as well."

De Blasio announced the planned school drive as yet another means of convenience for parents who find that to be the best option for their families. Kids who plan to take advantage of the in-school program, which runs through next Monday, need to have a parent or guardian with them to get vaccinated.

Verbal consent can also be provided by phone, though some schools may require in-person supervision on a case-by-case basis. Click here to find the consent form, list of school vaccine sites and when they open.

To assuage any concerns on that front, de Blasio said that starting Monday, every city worker or contractor would get four hours paid leave per child per shot to ensure that work hours lost wouldn't be a reason any kid didn't get vaccinated.

What about non-city workers? The mayor says the New York City Council is working on a legislative package that would enable them to apply for the time retroactively.

"We know that our schools are safe because of vaccination," the Democrat said as he tried to hammer home the point. "We want to make it really easy for parents in this youngest group, the 5-to-11-year-old's, to get their kids vaccinated."

The in-school drive won't see a repeat in three weeks, when the kids who get their first doses this week need to get their second shots to complete their series.

When asked whether he's worried that kids will only get one dose of the two-dose series due to the nature of the pop-up vaccine sites, de Blasio has said he's confident parents will follow up on the second shot elsewhere.

If demand for second shots in schools is higher than expected, he said the city will reevaluate. The mayor shared similar sentiments last week on his radio show.

"We saw typically parents choosing to go to other places they get health care rather than do it in the school," de Blasio told WNYC. "So, we're now doing one day per school for the five to 11-year-olds. If we get a really big pickup on that, we certainly can do more and we certainly can come back on the second dose."

Kids who get the COVID vaccine should be able to go maskless in school, says Dr. Alok Patel. "I can't wait to see those kids with their bright, smiling shining faces again," Patel says. He answers all our questions about the COVID vaccines being approved for administration to children.

Since federal health authorities allowed the vaccine for children aged 12-17 over the summer, the mayor said nearly 4 out of 5 of kids in the group across the five boroughs have gotten vaccinated with parental consent.

"The fact that we have gotten parents now to agree to that level, 78% for the 12 to 17-year-olds is great. I think we even have a higher number, ultimately with five to 11, but if we need to do more in schools, if it's working, of course we will," he added.

Once the majority of children are vaccinated, the next question still on parents' minds is when can kids stop wearing masks in school?

Both de Blasio and Mayor-elect Eric Adams say they want kids to be able to take their masks off because it's important for kids to socialize --- but they're going to wait until health experts are certain that kids will be safe.

Fresh on the heels of his mayoral victory last week, Adams told CNN's Dana Bash that he would like to see the mask mandate for the city's youngest residents dropped if scientific data supports it.

"If we can find a safe way to do it, I look forward to getting rid of the masks, but it must be done with the science. We're not going back to turning out city and closing it down," he said Sunday on "State of the Union."

Mayor de Blasio said he's the vaccination rates give him hope that mask requirements can one day be part of pandemic history, but the upcoming colder months are crucial and New Yorkers cannot underestimate the coronavirus.

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

"Until we're really sure, we have to expect the unexpected, he said. "I want those masks off one day, but we cannot tell you yet here's the exact day or here's the exact standard we're holding because we still need more information."

In other parts of the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul said more than 350 school districts have already indicated they plan to host vaccine events for kids aged 5-11. The Biden administration also plans to send a letter to U.S. elementary schools in the next week asking them to host clinics. The Education Department is also urging schools to host town halls and webinars at which parents can talk to doctors about the vaccine.

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.

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.

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 has said he opposes such mandates for kids at this point.

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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