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““Kayla is SO excited that it’s her turn to get the COVID shot!!,” said one parent in a text who wished to remain anonymous. “We’ve been pretty upfront about all of it. COVID can make people pretty sick so we keep our distance and wear masks. And she knows Mav (her sibling) was part of a study to see how kids do with the vaccine. 

“She asks every day when her appointment is,” she continued. “She knows I just got my booster and was like, you got a third shot before my first?!?”

But if one were to give a grade to the school vaccine rollout, it would be unsatisfactory. Good in some places, not so good in others.

To those of a certain age, you might even give it the “Kanye shrug.”

This week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s team distributing the COVID-19 vaccine offering Pfizer shots to children between the ages of 5 and 11. According to the Department of Education (DOE), each school received 50 doses of the vaccine. But there were problems immediately.

One parent told the AmNews that she waited until almost 10 AM for her kid to receive the first dose of the vaccine (despite being in line for several hours). Another complained about workers leaving minutes before their shift was over (which the AmNews couldn’t confirm). Another, who wished to remain anonymous, said she got to her school at 8 and was turned away because there were no more shots available.

According to the city, those who were turned away were a result of the demand being higher than supply. As of Wednesday morning, the city claimed it vaccinated 31,337 kids between 5 and 11 already.

All kids who wait in line for the vaccine must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Inshirah DuWors, the of a parent of my 10-yeard-old vaccine eligible child, said she was patiently waiting for the day that she could get her child vaccinated.

“My daughter is a little nervous because she doesn’t like shots but is excited to join the rest of her family in being vaccinated,” said DuWors to the AmNews. “And she is also having a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as her friends had vaccine appointments scheduled before hers! She has a vaccine appointment, so we won’t experience lines.”

According to the city’s statistics, Black New Yorkers have the lowest fully-vaccinated (46 percent) and partially-vaccinated (51 percent) rates in the city. The Bronx and Brooklyn, where a significant amount of the city’s Black community lives, has the lowest vaccination rates (69 percent and 67 percent respectively) in the five boroughs.

Staten Island’s vaccination rate sits at 70 percent.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of November 9, 360,000 kids under 12 received the COVID-19 vaccine. U.S. President Joe Biden expect close to one million members of that demographic will receive the vaxx shot.

Mayor de Blasio hopes to vaccinate kids at 1,000 different schools between now and Friday. As a response to complaints about the long lines, the city said it would adjust to demand and ship the appropriate amount of Pfzier COVID-19 vaccine.

Kaliris Y. Salas-Ramirez, PhD, Lecturer at the Dept. of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences at the CUNY School of Medicine, is also the president of Community Education Council (CEC) District 4 in East Harlem. She told the AmNews that schools should have been opened sooner and not necessarily for the shots, but for the shipments to arrive giving the school enough time to prepare for the arrival of children and their parents.

“They should have permission to open the schools by six o’clock because the DOE was supposed to start delivering the vaccines at 7 AM,” said Dr. Salas-Ramirez to the AmNews. “And very similar to what we were hearing yesterday, families were there at 6:30 AM and the first shots weren’t provided until eight o’clock in the morning. And families need to go to work.”

New York State Senator Jamaal Bailey told the AmNews that things seemed alright around his way. While coming home from an event with Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, Bailey spoke about the reports of long lines.

“Look, I haven’t seen any long lines, but I am glad that it’s improved,” said Bailey. “As a father of two children, one child in the age bracket and another child approaching the age bracket.  you know my kids will be vaccinated…But (the) bottom line is that this pandemic isn’t going to subside until we get shots in as many arms as possible, man. Like, that’s just the reality.”

The city and the state have tried to entice kids to vaccinate with other prizes…these of the academic variety.

New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that, among those who get vaccinated, there will be pool of names of which 50 will be selected and offered a full-ride scholarship to any CUNY or SUNY school. Bailey, who got his Bachelor of Sciences at SUNY Albany was more than fine with that.

“As a SUNY grad, you know, that’s the education that propelled me, in many ways, to where I am today, and I’m grateful for it,” he said. “And I believe that’s a wonderful incentive to get more people vaccinated.”

The rollout got more positive reviews from other schools. At Lexington Academy in East Harlem, (enrollment around 503 according to InsideSchools.org) an employee spoke on behalf of school principal Antonio Hernandez’ and said the rollout was successful. We were also told that the P.S. 154 – Harriet Tubman Learning Center (enrollment 219 according to InsideSchools.org) had no problems with the vaccine rollout either. Officials at P.S. 85, The Great Expectation School in the Bronx (enrollment 770), told the AmNews that they had no complaints.

None one, however, wanted to go on record.

This doesn’t surprise to Shino Tanikawa, co-chair of the Education Council Consortium (which aims to make the public, non-charter school system more equitable, inclusive and antiracist). She told the AmNews that Black people’s history with medical industry, despite the current push to tell them otherwise, continues to play a role in accepting the vaccine.

“I been really struggling with the vaccine mandate, right?” Tanikawa. “I mean, the school system already mandates a whole bunch of vaccines. So, I don’t think this is anything new. People talk about it like the schools don’t mandate vaccines, which is not true. There’s a whole bunch of vaccines that kids are supposed to have by the time they start kindergarten. But I’ve always had questions about that mandate. I totally get why some people don’t want the government telling them what to do with their body.

“And I’m not talking about the anti vaxxers out there,” continued Tanikawa. “Black and indigenous people of color. They are the one that I’m thinking about when the vaccine mandate is discussed because historically speaking, the medical institution has not served them. I mean, they…their bodies have been abused by medical institutions.

Teachers could be a conduit in giving parents access to the necessary materials and the DOE might have dropped the ball.  Dr. Beverly A. Sheppard, of the Department Chair of Pediatrics for AdvantageCare Physicians, told the AmNews that doling out the proper information to parents is just as important as doling out the vaccines to their children.

“For now, what is required is for us all to focus on parents’ understanding of the importance of vaccinations and making sure we answer all their questions quickly and clearly,” said Sheppard. “Parents with young children need to be reassured and have access and opportunity to ask and get answers to their questions, such as ‘what types of vaccinations are available to children, what days and where are vaccinations available, what are the appropriate and approved amount of doses for children, and what are the possible side effects, benefits, and follow-ups needed?’

“Parents need to consult with their child’s pediatrician throughout this process.”

It’s something Dr. Sheppard kept pushing as the name of the game.

“… public officials, and community leaders, including doctors, need to be ready to address parents’ concerns,” said Dr. Sheppard. “Fighting misinformation and hesitancy are going to be vital to keeping our city’s children safe. The more information and resources that we can provide, the healthier our families and future will be. Finally, we must make sure this distribution is equitable across all five boroughs.”

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