COVID vaccines for children are ‘inevitable,’ Hochul says; what’s not clear is if they’ll be mandatory


NEW YORK — At least five vaccines that protect children from a variety of diseases are required in order for a family to be able to enroll a child in a New York City public school. Could a COVID vaccine be added to the list?

It’s a question that both the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City are now considering as approval for such a vaccine inches closer, and since the state’s largest group of pediatricians strongly endorsed COVID vaccinations for children.

What’s still an open question is whether vaccines will be required for children if they get full Food and Drug Administration approval.  

Gov. Kathy Hochul is convinced that the vaccines for children are coming.  In the interest of being ready for when they’re available, she said that members of her administration are setting up Zoom conversations with groups of doctors, to get them enrolled in a vaccine distribution network.

“We’re going to be asking pediatricians to enroll in our program,” she said at a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday morning. “We’re going to make sure that they have the supply.” 

Pfizer has asked the FDA for emergency approval for a vaccine for children age five to eleven.  The company tentatively has a review of a child vaccine by an FDA panel the last week of this month.  

If the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant emergency use approval, a vaccine for children would be available this fall.

“We have the confirmation that this is inevitable,” Hochul said, although she didn’t indicate where the confirmation was from.

Also, the New York chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics have now made a statement “unequivocally supporting” vaccinations for children, once they’re available, adding to the interest in approval of the vaccines.

Currently in New York City, every student from pre-K to Grade 12 is required to have a DTap  vaccine, which protects against diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis; and vaccinations against  poliovirus, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, and Hepatitis B.

Whether a COVID vaccine would be added to the list provoked a mixed reaction from parents who spoke with PIX11 News, even though the parents were vaccinated.

Sean Jackson said that he would get his daughter, a first grader, vaccinated.  However, he was opposed to requiring a child COVID shot.

“Just make it a choice for people to do it, that’s all,” he said.  “Don’t mandate it for kids,” he continued. “For adults who go to work,” he said, was an acceptable requirement, “but for kids, nah.”

Janet Yasmoun, the mother of a fourth grader, said she felt sorry for families that don’t support a COVID vaccine for kids, but who could one day be required to have their children vaccinated.

As for her, she said, “Yeah, why not?”  

“Before [the pandemic],” she said about a vaccine, “it’s gone through a lot of study, research.  So why not?”

Mayor Bill de Blasio talked about the situation in his daily COVID briefing, in response to questions from PIX11 News.  

He said that he supports childhood vaccinations, but as for requiring them in school, he said, “I certainly can’t support it, at this point.”

“We can’t, in my opinion,” he continued, “to hold against our kids the decisions of adults.”

“And there’s still, unfortunately, in my mind, too many adults who are not ready to give that consent,” said the mayor.

He said that it was more important to keep COVID rates in schools low.

Gov. Hochul, for her part, said that she was not at this point in favor of making Covid shots mandatory for students.

“My default position is to trust the parents to do the right thing,” she said.  

She added that she was aware that California’s government has said that it will require vaccinations throughout the state, probably in the fall of 2022.

She said that New York is not adopting such a standpoint, yet.

“We’ll monitor that,” she said about COVID vaccinations among New York children, if a vaccine for them is approved, “but [we’re] willing to take a step, if we see numbers that we’re not satisfied with.” 

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