Starting Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio's expanded vaccine requirements will include children over 5 years old.
New York City's “Key to NYC” mandate has been seen by officials as the secret to increasing vaccination in the battle against the coronavirus in the Big Apple and maintaining the economy open since it went into effect in September.
According to NYC's Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, case rates are currently highest among our 5- to 11-year-olds but getting shots to the recently eligible young population will help. Nearly 50% of those kids have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine as of Monday, the city's data show.
Here's what you need to know if you have a child 5 years or older in New York City:
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Is there a school vaccine mandate in place for students?
There is no vaccine mandate for students 5 and over who are eligible for inoculations. However, there are mandates in place for certain activities. See below.
Proof of Vaccination for Restaurants, Certain Venues for Kids 5-11
Parents who want kids ages 5-11 to come with them to indoor dining, gyms, entertainment and performance venues will have to provide their children's proof of one vaccine starting Dec. 14.
Proof of Vaccination for High-Risk Extracurricular Activities
The new rules also apply to other high-risk extracurricular activities such as sports, band, orchestra and dance, the mayor said.
Vaccinations to participate in contact sports like football and basketball, as well as some high-risk extracurricular activities like band practice and theater were already required by students 12 and over.
"By putting that mandate on for the youngest New Yorkers for indoor entertainment, etcetera, we know a lot more kids are going to get vaccinated and that affects the whole household," de Blasio explained Monday. "When you have a multi-generational household, if one person brings COVID in the door, it puts everyone else in harm's way, including particularly our seniors and folks with preexisting conditions."
Considering kids age 5 through 11 only first became eligible for their initial doses in early November and must wait at least 21 days between Pfizer's doses, only one dose proof is required.
Are vaccines available in schools?
They were. Schools with students 5-11 years old have held vaccine drives for the past couple of weeks and the pop-up sites at around 800 concluded on Monday.
Kids will be able to get their vaccines at city-run sites, pharmacies or at their pediatrician's offices throughout the five boroughs.
"We have emphasized how important it is for kids to get vaccinated so that they are not subject to unnecessary quarantine once they become fully vaccinated," Commissioner Chokshi said.
"We've also collaborated with our DOE colleagues on a backpack letter and other parent engagement to ensure that parents are aware of this really important intervention that we have to protect children and keep them safely in school," he added.
If the majority of children end up getting vaccinated, when can kids stop wearing masks in schools?
Once the majority of children are vaccinated, the next logical question 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.
What else is in the new mandate?
All private-sector workers in New York City will be subject to the mayor's vaccine mandate starting Dec. 27, affecting 184,000 businesses.
As it stands now, New York City's vaccine mandate requires proof of just one dose for the municipal workforce and a number of other higher-risk sectors and the same to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and other venues.
Also starting post-Christmas, New Yorkers aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of two vaccine doses, instead of one, to dine indoors, enter gyms and entertainment venues. The rule won't apply to those who have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The mayor said he will issue additional enforcement and reasonable accommodation guidance on Wednesday, along with additional resources to support small businesses with implementation.