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NYC’s ‘incredibly popular’ COVID vaccine clinics at schools might expand, de Blasio says

Io Gerald, 10, got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at her school, P.S. 19 in Manhattan’s East Village. Her mother, Christina Gerald, left, was by her side.
Christina Veiga / Chalkbeat

About 17,000 children ages 5- to 11-years-old got vaccinated against COVID-19 at their schools over three days this week, a level of demand that caught city officials by surprise.

Now Mayor Bill de Blasio says he may add additional days for school-based sites to offer the shots, and is considering opening up campuses to administer second doses. The city’s initial plans called for only offering the first shot at schools.

“Sites in the public schools have been incredibly popular. More than we imagined, honestly,” de Blasio said Friday during his regular appearance on WNYC radio.

Younger children only became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine on Nov. 2. Since then, city officials say more than 51,000 New York City children in this age group have received their first dose — representing about 8% of those eligible. Children who get vaccinated at schools and other city-run sites are eligible for a $100 incentive.

It’s possible that parents in some pockets of the city are more eager to get their children vaccinated than in others. A spokesperson for City Hall said that data on the number of vaccinations given by individual schools was not available.

The city has promised to offer the vaccine in every school with 5- to 11-year-olds in an effort that began this week and will last through Monday. Schools also administered shots to older students over the summer, but saw less demand, perhaps because the vaccines had already been available for weeks before the school sites were opened.

Given the slower uptake over the summer, officials only planned to offer first doses at elementary schools, and to help parents schedule second doses elsewhere. De Blasio said he is now reconsidering — and contemplating adding more dates for initial doses.

“Any school where there’s demand, we’ll have a vaccine site, we’ll keep adding. And if it makes sense to do it for the second doses, that’s great,” he said. “Wherever we’re going to get people is where we’re going to be, is the bottom line. If that’s where parents want to be, we’ll have vaccinators there for them.”

All school staff are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but de Blasio remains resistant to mandating the shots for students. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, on the other hand, hasn’t ruled it out. The incoming mayor — Eric Adams, who was elected earlier this month and will take office in January — has also signaled he is open to making the vaccine mandatory for students.

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