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NYC elementary schools to give kids COVID shots next week

New York City public schools serving 5- to 11-year-old students will each host a one-day COVID vaccine clinic next week, following federal signoff on the pediatric shots, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday morning.
The Pfizer vaccine will be available at 1,070 school sites during school hours starting Nov. 8, de Blasio said. Schools will require parents to accompany their children, or provide written or verbal consent for the vaccinations.

The plan to administer the shots at elementary schools follows a highly anticipated, emergency clearance from federal health officials on the Pfizer vaccine for younger children. As the United States neared approval, the school system’s role in vaccination had become a big question.
In clinical trials, the Pfizer shot was found to be 91% effective at preventing COVID in children — similar to effectiveness in adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similar to those in adults, side effects were “mild,” and include fatigue or flu-like symptoms. Such side effects are similar to other vaccines that children receive, according to federal health officials. The most common side effect was a sore arm, the CDC said in a statement.
The dose contains one-third the amount given to adults and older children. Children are supposed to receive two shots, administered three weeks apart.
While school may be an easy place for families to turn to, some doctors previously told Chalkbeat that they believe most of the vaccine uptake will be through a trusted pediatrician. De Blasio also acknowledged that some parents will prefer going to their child’s doctor or a city clinic, which will begin providing the newly approved shots Thursday.
“All choices are good choices, but we want to make it available and easy for parents who prefer just to go to their local school building,” de Blasio told reporters.
School-based staffers must be vaccinated, but de Blasio doubled down on refusing to mandate COVID shots for students, noting that he doesn’t want students to be discouraged from attending school. That’s against the advice of New York’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which last month called for mandating the shots once they receive full approval. (So far, only Pfizer vaccines for ages 16 and older have received full federal approval).
COVID vaccination at schools is not unprecedented in New York City. Schools serving 12- to 15-year-old students offered vaccines the first week of school in September and returned three weeks later to provide second doses. As of early October, 74% of city children ages 12-17 had received at least one dose.
The push to get younger students vaccinated raises new questions about whether certain quarantining rules will change.
Currently, vaccinated students don’t have to quarantine if they’re exposed to an infected peer or teacher unless they display symptoms. Unvaccinated children wearing masks must only isolate if they were less than 3 feet apart from an infected student. Unvaccinated students must quarantine for 10 days, though they may return on the eighth day with proof of a lab-confirmed negative test administered on Day 5 or later.
One quarantine rule, however, is different in elementary schools: the whole classroom must close for 10 days if an adult in the room tests positive for COVID. Department officials did not immediately say whether the new vaccinations would change this.
This school year to date, 4,950 students — or roughly .5% of the city’s school population — have tested positive for COVID, according to the education department. In that time period, nearly 2,000 classrooms have been fully closed for quarantines, while just over 3,100 classrooms have seen partial closures.

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