NYC schools start vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds to cheers, relief, and some frustration

Five-year-old Indiana Chang got her first vaccine dose at her school, P.S. 19 in Manhattan’s East Village. Her dad, Philippe Chang, held her hand while her mother, Ally, looked on. New York City health commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, back left, and schools Chancellor Meisha Porter, crouched on the right, were also there to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated. (Christina Veiga / Chalkbeat)

Even behind her purple mask, 10-year-old Io Gerald’s eyes grew noticeably wide when she realized it was over: She had been jabbed with her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. 

The fifth-grader at P.S. 19 in Manhattan’s East Village jumped out of her chair. 

“I did it!” she said. 

Students across New York City lined up to get vaccinated at their schools on Monday, the first day officials made doses available at school sites. Demand outpaced supply at some schools, and lines wrapped around the block at others. Some parents set up lawn chairs to snag a spot of the first-come, first-served shots. 

About 200 schools offered vaccinations on Monday. Mayor Bill de Blasio said there were long lines at about a dozen campuses in Manhattan’s District 1 and 2, covering Lower Manhattan through Chelsea and the Upper East Side, and in Brooklyn’s District 15, spanning areas including Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Red Hook and Gowanus. 

City leaders said they would offer additional vaccination dates at schools where students had to be turned away. 

“It is great to see that kind of demand. We got to match it now,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Monday morning. 

Officials plan to give the shots at every school with 5- to 11-year olds — more than 1,000 total — by next week. The city is offering $100 debit cards to families who get their children vaccinated at schools or other city-run clinics.  

Children ages 5 to 11 began receiving shots last week on the heels of emergency approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With that decision, most school-age children are now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. So far, 17,000 children in this younger age group have been vaccinated in New York City, city officials said. 

De Blasio on Monday announced that public employees would receive an additional four hours of paid time off per child, per dose, to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated. City leaders hope to pass legislation to offer the same benefit to employees of private companies. 

Of all the ways the pandemic has upended society, the impacts on education have been one of most deeply felt by families and children. This is the third year of interrupted learning caused by the virus. Less than two months into the school year, more than 5,000 students of nearly 1 million have tested positive for the virus in New York City, and more than 2,000 classrooms have been closed, with another 3,400 partial classroom closures, according to city data.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter and New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi visited the vaccination site at P.S. 19 on Monday. For many of the parents who got their children vaccinated there, it represented another step towards recovery. 

Io got her shot right outside her school’s auditorium, with her first grade teacher cheering her on. Her mother, Christina Gerald, said she chose to get her daughter vaccinated at school because “it was simple.”

Io spent the previous school year learning online while living outside of New York City. She said she was glad to be back in school this year. With the vaccine, she said, “I will stay safe and I will make sure everyone in my class is safe.”

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

Philippe and Ally Chang brought their 5-year-old daughter Indiana to get her first dose. Philippe said they chose to get her vaccinated at school, “to show the other parents and the students that it’s safe.” 

When it was her turn, Indiana looked away from the needle. “Yeah!” she cheered after her shot. “That wasn’t so bad.”

Fourth-grader Christopher Reyes, 9, gave himself a round of applause after he got his first dose. He had warned the nurse he might scream — but he didn’t. Instead, he gave the chancellor a fist bump. 

His dad, Alphonso Reyes, said he was eager to have his son vaccinated so they could visit family for the holidays. He and his son watch the news together, and know the commercials that Chokshi and Porter have recorded to encourage families to get their children vaccinated. Reyes said when he told his son he might get to meet Chokshi when he got vaccinated at school, “He was like ‘Ok. Cool. I’m ready.’”

Mason Lawrence, 9, got his first vaccine dose at his school, P.S. 19 in Manhattan’s East Village. His dad, Terrence Lawrence, left, held his hand. (Christina Veiga / Chalkbeat)

Andre Cowan patted his son’s head after 8-year-old Tsa got his first dose.

“I thought it was important for his safety and his health, as well as for the other kids and for the staff here,” Cowan said. “If we’re all vaccinated we can move this forward and contribute to the safety of New York City.”

The Latest

Former Board President Joyce Wilkerson’s nomination by Mayor Cherelle Parker was deferred, and city officials expressed displeasure about the district’s charter school policy.

The Bookmobile seeks to increase children’s access to physical books and promote the pleasures of reading.

More than 40,000 employees work on the Denver airport campus.

Los habitantes de Chicago votarán por 10 de los 21 miembros en las primeras elecciones de la junta escolar de la ciudad. Aquí hay seis cosas que usted debe saber al inicio del ciclo electoral.

The joint initiative between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union provides up to $500,000 per school for wraparound services.

By far, this marks the city’s largest commitment to date to replace the dwindling pandemic aid.