Some of the youngest New Yorkers were vaccinated for COVID-19 on Wednesday as the vaccine for children under 5 became available for the first time.
Emi Tuyetnhi Tran, The City
Republished for The Roosevelt Island Daily News
This story is part of “MISSING THEM,” THE CITY’s collaborative COVID-19 memorial and accountability journalism project. Do you know a child who has lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19? Tell us more here.
By 9 a.m., a line had formed outside the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights — one of 10 new vaccine hubs now open in New York — with parents eager to get their babies and toddlers vaccinated.
“It’s a big relief. Just to have the peace of mind is a big deal,” said Shehzad Nadeem, after his 2-year-old daughter got her first shot.
He’d secured an appointment through the city’s Vaccine Finder at 9:45 p.m. on Tuesday, as soon they became available.
“It’s been a mixture of emotions, including jubilation, he said. “Everyone’s been through a lot.”
Travis Donia and Stephanie Wai brought their 19-month-old daughter to get vaccinated, too. Despite an initially “frustrating” experience waiting for appointments to appear in the city’s Vaccine Finder website Tuesday night — an issue called out by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine as “unacceptable” — Donia said the experience went smoothly in the end.
“It’s one of the most important and effective things to keep her and the community safe,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for all children 6 months and older. But some parents do not share Nadeem and Donia’s excitement about getting the shot for their tots.
One in five parents of children under 5 are eager to vaccinate their children right away, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, which tracks the public’s attitude to COVID-19 vaccines. Four out of ten parents reported that they wanted to “wait and see” before deciding to vaccinate and another four in ten said they were reluctant to vaccinate their young children.
Despite that hesitation, the mood from city health officials was buoyant on Wednesday morning as Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan and Mayor Eric Adams toured the new Times Square vaccine hub for kids.
“We’ve been waiting two and a half years for this moment to protect our little ones,” Vasan said. “This is a great day. It’s a great day for our city. It’s a great day for our country.”
Should you vaccinate your child under 5?
More than 40,000 New Yorkers have died of COVID-19 since March 2020, according to THE CITY’s COVID-19 tracker.
Children and adults are just as likely to get COVID-19 although children are less susceptible to severe illness, according to researchers. Since the start of the pandemic, around 1 in 6 children in New York City under the age of 5 has contracted COVID, according to data from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Children under 5 have been hospitalized due to COVID at higher rates, compared to children aged 5-17, according to the city’s data.
Dr. Marty Ellington Jr., the chair of pediatrics at Lenox Hill Hospital, said that it is important for young children to be vaccinated against COVID as they are particularly vulnerable.
“Children [younger] than 5 are are the members of our society who are most at-risk for infectious diseases because their immune systems are immature,” Ellington said. “What we’ve seen as the pandemic has progressed is that, particularly as vaccination has emerged, it zeroes in on those who are unvaccinated.”
The COVID vaccine for infants and young children is the same as the version given to adults and older children except it contains a lower dosage. The pediatric Pfizer vaccine is given in three doses and the pediatric Moderna vaccine is given in two doses.
For parents who are still on the fence, Ellington says both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccines have been thoroughly tested and are comparable to routine vaccines, such as the influenza vaccine.
“These vaccines have been fully tested. They have been FDA-approved at this point, and they’ve been given to hundreds of millions of individuals, in many cases, multiple doses.”
Where can I get a vaccine for my baby or toddler?
Children under 5 can receive the COVID-19 vaccine through a pediatrician, pharmacy or at 10 vaccination hubs across the five boroughs.
Parents can find appointments for their kids using the city’s COVID-19 and Flu Vaccine Finder.
Vaccines are free, and the city Health Department says that you will not be charged for a shot, even if you don’t have health insurance. It’s possible that your insurance company may be billed, but you will not be charged any fee or copay for the vaccination.
In order to get your child vaccinated, parents or guardians must be present to consent, according to the health department.
The city-run vaccination hubs for young children accept both appointments or a limited number of walk-ins. Parents can use the city’s Vax4NYC the website to locate a vaccine provider and set up an appointment. Alternatively, parents can call (877)-VAX-4NYC to schedule a vaccine appointment.
All children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old can be vaccinated at the hubs. Currently, the city-run vaccination centers provide only the Moderna COVID vaccine.
Parents can also get their child vaccinated through their pediatrician, although not all hospitals and pediatricians have received enough COVID vaccines for children in this age group yet. Call your pediatrician’s office ahead of time to ask whether they carry the pediatric COVID vaccine.
Ellington, a board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist, said some families may opt to schedule a vaccine with their children’s primary care doctor.
“Families have the opportunity to get the advice and reassurance that it’s the right thing from their pediatrician,” he said.
Pharmacies around the city, such as Walgreens and CVS, also carry pediatric COVID vaccines although they do not serve infants. CVS Pharmacy locations provide COVID vaccines for children 5 and above, but its MinuteClinic partners can now vaccinate children ages 18 months and above. Walgreens will start vaccinating children 3 and up on June 25.
MISSING THEM is supported, in part, by the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia Journalism School.
THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.
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