The city’s school-based vaccine clinics for 5- to 11-year-olds were popular enough to cause some snags for the Department of Education as it rolled out its program this week in the wake of the authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for that age group.
After the first day, parents reported that the demand for the vaccines in many schools across the city outstripped the supply that the city sent to individual schools, and kept some families from getting the shot.
Community Education Council 24 President Phil Wong said that parents from PS 229 and IS 5 in Maspeth had reported long waits and shortages of the vaccine on Monday morning. When he observed the vaccine distribution at PS 7 in Elmhurst the next day, he said the lines persisted but that the city sent over a mobile vaccine van to meet the demand.
The mayor acknowledged that he was surprised by the popularity of the program and promised to correct its problems at his press event Tuesday.
“We saw that demand, it was actually greater than we expected, which is a very good thing,” Mayor de Blasio said in his daily press conference in response to the reports of shortages and disorganization. “So we immediately shifted supply to the schools where there was a high-level demand. We’ve sent those mobile vaccination vans to schools.”
The school-based clinics rotate from school to school on certain days. Parents need to check on a calendar that the DOE has posted online to see what days and times their children’s school will offer the vaccines. The clinics are walk-in only, so there is no way to make an appointment ahead of time.
The DOE has been adding sites to the calendar throughout the week, with the city reporting around 200 sites citywide in operation as of Wednesday.
Children must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, or by a designated adult while receiving their vaccine. In the first two days of the program, the DOE reported giving out 10,000 shots to the roughly 660,000 5- to 11-year-olds in the city.
Although the number of cases in the city’s public school student body is at its lowest point in the past year, according to city data, the rush to school vaccination clinics coincided this week with the second school closures of the school year at Long Island City’s PS 166 Henry Gradstein on Wednesday.
One obstacle to the school clinic plan’s implementation is that the sites are open to all students, not just those who attend the designated school.
“The problem is that we have kids coming from all over, not just public school kids. Private schools, charter schools, Catholic schools — those kids are coming, and DOE cannot turn them away,” said Wong.
Some principals said that the DOE had initially provided a fixed allocation of 50 doses per school, Wong reported along with other news outlets.
De Blasio said on Tuesday that the small distribution of doses to each site was partly based on the response to school clinics for 12- to 17-year-olds, which was not as popular.
“Any school that believes they need more, we’re going to give them more doses, period. And that can happen right now,” he said.
The high demand for the school clinics was not consistent across Queens, though, parents reported. Unlike Wong in his central Queens school district, Adriana Aviles, the CEC 26 president, said she hadn’t heard any problems with shortages from schools in her district.
“All I know is that my schools are completely dead. It’s like no one is interested,” said Aviles, whose fourth-grade son said that not many of his peers seemed to be getting pulled out of their class for the vaccine.
To check for clinic availability online, visit on.nyc.gov/3qntH1J.