Andrew Melville’s daughter is in fourth grade at PS 69 Journey Prep School in the Bronx, where 22 percent of students have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Although Mr. Melville himself has been vaccinated, he feels his daughter should not do this because he is concerned about the effectiveness of the injections.
“I’m 100 percent against it for kids,” said Mr. Melville, 32. “You could still catch Covid with it. I have contracted Covid twice and have been fully vaccinated and given the booster shot.”
Resistance among parents like Mr. Melville is one of the reasons that the vaccination rate of the 1 million public school students in New York City is significantly lower than that of adults. Some health experts find the numbers alarming, in part because the city recently lifted its mandate for school masks, along with other pandemic restrictions. And coronavirus cases are starting to rise again, driven in large part by BA.2, a highly transmissible Omicron subvariant.
In an effort to boost immunizations among children ages 5 to 11, New York City officials this week began running vaccine clinics in public elementary schools in every neighborhood except Manhattan, which has the highest vaccination rate among college students. The week-long clinics will be held each week at a new set of 20 schools, chosen based on their size and their vaccination rates, according to a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education.
A total of 75 students were vaccinated in the clinics on Monday and Tuesday, the spokesperson said. The clinics will return to schools in a few weeks to administer second doses.
The city launched a wider effort across all primary schools over the course of five weeks last fall, during which push nearly 60,000 students and staff were vaccinated. After the five weeks were up, in mid-December, about 27 percent of all vaccinated students in the 5-11 age group had received the injections at school.
The hope is that this time the clinics will reach students whose parents have been hesitant or resistant until now, said Dr. Wayne J. Riley, the president of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and a co-chair of Mayor Eric Adams’s health council. -power task force.
“I think parents can now clearly see that the vaccines are working to prevent the worst effects of Covid,” said Dr. Riley, adding that it was important to continue providing information about the vaccines to families.
While the clinics will help certain parents by making vaccines easier to access, they may not be enough to convince others who are not convinced of the safety and efficacy of the injections and who in some cases have absorbed misinformation about the injections. One surefire way to improve vaccination coverage would be to mandate the shots, some experts said.
“I think clinics will help. It helps remove the logistical barriers, but they’re only getting the vaccination coverage so far,” says Dr. Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.
“I imagine that in order to get the vaccination coverage for children there, vaccine requirements would be the way to do it,” he added.
While more than 87 percent of adults and 79 percent of children ages 13 to 17 in New York City are fully vaccinated, the same is true for only about 45 percent of children ages 5 to 12, according to city data. (The national vaccination rate for children ages 5 to 12 is even lower, at 27 percent, according to DailyExpertNews database.)
White children ages 5 to 17 have the lowest vaccination coverage in the city: Forty percent are fully vaccinated, compared with 43 percent of black children, 54 percent of Latino children and 99 percent of Asian children, according to city data.
The city has mandated that teachers and school staff be vaccinated, but students are not required to do so. Early this month, the Supreme Court rejected the latest attempt by New York City teachers to challenge the vaccine mandate.
The city’s new health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, said Tuesday he was considering a vaccine mandate for public school students. He said vaccination coverage for 5- to 11-year-olds, the most recent age group to qualify for the injections, was too low and health and education officials were working to increase it.
“I think we’ve seen time and time again that mandates are an important tool to increase vaccination coverage,” said Dr. Vasan at a press conference with the mayor at City Hall.
Some students attend schools where vaccination rates are quite low. According to a Chalkbeat analysis conducted this month, 35 percent of students in black schools are vaccinated. In schools where the majority of students are Latino, 44 percent are vaccinated, the analysis shows, compared with 51 percent in predominantly white schools and 64 percent in predominantly Asian schools.
Children generally have a lower risk of a bad outcome if they get Covid-19, although some become seriously ill from the virus. Those who become infected can also pass the virus on to others who are more vulnerable, Dr. Nash on.
“All these children are connected to households and families and communities in the city,” said Dr. nash. “In my opinion, it is important to increase the vaccination of children to protect them, but also to limit the spread.”
Children remain unvaccinated for various reasons. Some parents say they simply haven’t had time to get their kids vaccinated. Others don’t trust the safety of the shots. And some kids have legitimate medical reasons for avoiding the vaccines.
Tyasia Baptistte’s son is in third grade at the PS 40 George W. Carver Elementary School in Brooklyn, where only 19.2 percent of students are fully vaccinated, according to city data. Ms Baptistte, 23, has been vaccinated, but she said she wanted more information before her son gets the vaccine.
“The doctors told me to hold on because he was sick,” said Ms Baptistte, adding that her son had a lung problem. “My mother works in a hospital, so I’m not short-sighted. I just want to make sure we’re making the right decision for our little babies.”
Chasity Arias’ children are in fourth and fifth grade at PS 96 Richard Rodgers Elementary School in the Bronx, where 20.6 percent of students are fully vaccinated, according to city data. Ms. Arias, 31, has not been vaccinated and does not intend to have her children vaccinated.
“First I’ll have to see if I think it’s safe for me, and then once I receive it, and I feel it’s safe for me, maybe I’ll consider buying it for my kids,” he said. Mrs Arias.
The coronavirus vaccines are safe and few side effects have been reported. The vaccines have also been effective in preventing hospitalization and death from Covid-19.
But many families, who may not be following the latest research from the medical community, still have questions about how exactly the shots work. And many communities have been inundated with misinformation and misinformation about the vaccines.
“No parent ever wants to feel like they are doing something to harm their child,” says Dr. Toni Eyssallenne, an internist and pediatrician for Strong Children’s Wellness, a medical group in Queens.
“We need to try harder to prevent the misinformation and make sure we make it easily accessible, have patient conversations with our parents, to make sure everyone feels safe and secure,” she said. †
The concerns of Cynthia Nieves, an unvaccinated mother of two, illustrate why vaccine hesitation is a lingering problem.
One of her children goes to PS 96 and is eligible for vaccination, but Ms Nieves said no amount of information in a pop-up clinic could convince her.
“It’s just something I still don’t believe in,” she said. “I don’t want to give them anything and later, years later, something happens to my kids because then I would feel like it’s my fault.”
Emma G. Fitzsimmons reported.