Families in New York City began vaccinating children younger than 5 against Covid-19 on Wednesday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the vaccines over the weekend and many parts of the United States started giving shots this week.
In a city that was once the epicenter of the Covid pandemic, many parents have been eager to vaccinate the last age group still awaiting shots, the youngest children, and moved quickly to book appointments.
Some health providers started offering vaccines to young children on Wednesday, including pharmacies like Walgreens, which serve children 3 and older. The city opened 10 vaccine hubs to serve children 6 months and older, and appointments were available on the city’s “Vaccine Finder” website.
On Wednesday morning, about two dozen parents, some with toddlers in tow and others pushing babies in strollers or carrying them strapped to their chests, arrived at the city-run vaccination hub in Times Square, after Mayor Eric Adams and Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the health commissioner, toured the site.
“We’ve been waiting two and a half years for this moment to protect our little ones,” Dr. Vasan said. “This is a great day. It’s a great day for our city. It’s a great day for our country.”
A health department spokesperson said the Times Square location had about 150 appointments booked for Wednesday, with a capacity for more than 2,500 a week.
One of the first parents in line early Wednesday was Max Bookman, 34, an attorney from the Upper East Side. He carried his 2-year-old, Cara. The pigtailed toddler appeared unfazed beneath her fish-themed mask and didn’t even cry after the shot, instead relishing a round of applause from the onlooking reporters.
Cara was 5 months old when the pandemic began, and Mr. Bookman said she had never been in a grocery store. He was looking forward to finally being able to do indoor activities with her, he said, “all the normal things that kids are supposed to do in their lives.”
On Tuesday, New York City moved from the high risk level for Covid-19 to medium as virus cases and hospitalization rates continue to fall. Broadway theaters will be allowed to drop their mask mandates starting July 1, and Mayor Eric Adams recently removed a mask mandate for toddlers.
Mr. Adams, a Democrat who took office in January, said that New Yorkers were doing the right things to contain the virus, including getting vaccinated, testing and wearing masks, and he said that vaccinating children under 5 was the next step.
Jami Wolf, the mother of a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter who lives in South Slope in Brooklyn, said she was “extremely excited” about the arrival of vaccines for young children.
“We’ve been waiting for this for as long as the pandemic has started,” she said. “I was practically first in line when they rolled out the vaccines for the 5- to 12-year-olds, and I plan to be first in line, so to speak, for this rollout too.”
Ms. Wolf said she had found an available appointment for Wednesday afternoon, although she said the process of finding an appointment on Tuesday had been “frustrating.”
The mayor’s office said that appointments would be available for the city’s vaccine hubs on Tuesday at 9 p.m., but the website did not load until almost 9:45 p.m. Mark Levine, the Manhattan borough president, said of the delays that it was “unacceptable to put parents through this.”
The number of daily cases in the city has dropped to about 2,800, from about 4,300 last month, according to city data, though the real number is most likely much higher because the city’s tally does not include most home tests. About 740 people are hospitalized with the virus in the city.
Some parents said they were more cautious about vaccinating younger children. Andrea Thomas, 35, a mother who lives in Sunset Park in Brooklyn, said that she had “no reservations whatsoever” about vaccinating her 13-year-old son and was more hesitant now about her 4-year-old daughter. Her entire family caught the coronavirus a month and a half ago, giving her daughter some immunity, and she is concerned about possible side effects.
“If she hadn’t just had it, I’d feel differently,” she said.
On Wednesday, Mr. Adams acknowledged that parents may have concerns about the vaccines. “Adult vaccines is one thing,” he said. “Children vaccines, parents are going to have a lot of questions.”
When the C.D.C. recommended the vaccines for very young children on Saturday, the agency noted: “All children, including children who have already had Covid-19, should get vaccinated.”
June 22, 2022
An earlier version of this article misstated the borough Mark Levine represents. It is Manhattan, not Brooklyn.
President Biden on Tuesday marked what White House officials have cast as the unofficial beginning of the U.S. vaccination campaign for children younger than 5, visiting a site in Washington, D.C., to meet with families and children as some shots were administered.
“Finally, some peace of mind,” Mr. Biden said at the White House after the event in remarks celebrating the availability of shots, calling it a “monumental step forward” in the nation’s pandemic response.
Federal health officials, eager to showcase the progress the United States has made in fending off deadly cases of the coronavirus, have worked for weeks to prepare parents and doctors for immunizing the youngest children, a population of around 20 million that has waited 18 months after adults first became eligible for the shots.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last week cleared the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots for young children following votes from independent expert committees.
Mr. Biden said that he met with around 17 families at the Washington vaccination site with children who had already received a shot or were about to. A federal website, vaccines.gov, had updated on Tuesday to show locations where vaccines could be found, he said.
Arsema Desta, a registered nurse in Washington helping with local pediatric vaccination efforts, appeared with the president at the White House and said that shots for young children were important “because it allows multigenerational households to ensure everyone in the household is vaccinated.”
The Biden administration has already made at least 10 million doses available to states and health providers and expects to lean heavily on pediatricians and primary care offices to administer them, as is typical in pediatric vaccination campaigns. Pharmacies and community health centers, among other providers, will also vaccinate the youngest children.
But as of a deadline last week, only 2.5 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine had been ordered, around half of what the federal government offered, as well as about 1.3 million Moderna doses, about a quarter of what was offered.
Dr. Deborah M. Greenhouse, a pediatrician in Columbia, S.C., said that as of Tuesday afternoon, her practice had still been waiting on about 1,000 doses to arrive. She said parents she had encountered so far fell into three categories: those knocking down the doors to get the vaccine; those interested but needing some consultation; and families completely resistant.
She said that lower uptake among 5- to 11-year-olds was a “real concern” she and colleagues had, but were hoping to overcome with younger children. Only around 37 percent of kids in the age group have received at least one dose.
Pediatricians are especially important for families in making the choice, she said.
“Once it’s rolling out and you have a lot of the early adopter groups, once their kids have gotten the vaccine and there’s more data and bigger numbers, that’s what’s going to attract” families waiting to decide, she said.
Speaking at the White House Tuesday, Mr. Biden again warned of a lack of funding for the federal pandemic response, something he suggested could hinder future attempts to quash possible surges. Federal health officials have pleaded for months with lawmakers to provide more money for vaccines and treatments. But negotiations have stalled, even turning publicly hostile at a Senate hearing last week.
Mr. Biden also appeared to take a swipe at Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Health providers in the state were allowed to belatedly order shots for young children last week after Florida became the only state to decline preordering, White House officials have said. State officials denied that they had reversed their position and said that they had maintained a policy to allow orders after F.D.A. authorization.
“Let’s be clear: Elected officials shouldn’t get in the way and make it more difficult for parents who want their children to be vaccinated and want to protect them and those around them,” Mr. Biden said. “This is no time for politics. It’s about parents being able to do everything they can to keep their children safe.”
Health workers across the United States began to give Covid-19 vaccinations to children 6 months to 5 years old on Tuesday, another milestone in the coronavirus pandemic that came 18 long months after adults first began to receive injections against the virus.
But the response from parents was notably muted, with little indication of the excitement and long lines that greeted earlier vaccine rollouts.
An April poll showed that less than a fifth of parents of children under 5 were eager to get access to the shot right away. Early adopters in this age group appeared to be outliers.
At 9 a.m., Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio became one of the first sites to vaccinate the youngest children, with the three-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meant for this age group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also endorsed a second option for young children, a two-dose regimen from Moderna.
Brian Wentzel, 38, brought his 2-year-old son, Bodhi, at 9:15 a.m. The boy clutched a stuffed dog and bravely took the shot in his leg. His mother is a physician at the hospital.
“It was important to get him vaccinated,” Mr. Wentzel said. “It is extremely effective at preventing severe illness.”
At a White House news conference on Tuesday afternoon, President Biden called the expanded vaccines “a monumental step forward.”
“The United States,” he continued, “is now the first country in the world to offer safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old.”
He encouraged all Americans to get vaccinated and said parents should speak to a family doctor if they had questions. In additional to doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics, the pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart would soon offer vaccines to the youngest children, Mr. Biden said.
The vaccines did not yet appear to be widely available. Some pediatricians’ offices reported that they had not yet received the shots or that they planned to deliver the vaccine mostly at regularly scheduled well visits.
Yet clamoring from families is limited. The reasons for parental vaccine hesitation are varied. Two years into the pandemic, many families have become resigned to living with the virus, and a majority of American children have already been infected, mostly experiencing mild symptoms.
Jill Cowan contributed to this report.
Broadway theaters will be allowed to drop their mask mandates starting July 1, the Broadway League announced Tuesday.
The League described the new policy as “mask optional,” and said it would be re-evaluated monthly.
“Our theater owners have been watching the protocols, watching admissions to hospitals, watching as we have no issues across the country where tours are mostly not masked, and they decided it was time to try,” said Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League. “This is not an easy decision — there are more people that want masks off than on, but plenty still want them on — and we’re encouraging people that have any concerns to wear their masks.”
St. Martin said the theater owners would continue to meet weekly to assess the health situation, and are open to reimposing the mandate if necessary. “We’re going to see how it goes,” she said.
Broadway had maintained fairly restrictive audience policies since theaters reopened last summer. The theaters required patrons to show proof of vaccination until April 30, and have continued to require patrons to wear masks except while eating and drinking.
Broadway’s public health protocols have taken on an outsize role in the performing arts, as many other institutions have taken their cues from the big theaters. Broadway theaters imposed a vaccine mandate before New York City did the same for restaurants, gyms and other indoor performances, and then maintained their rules long after the city stopped requiring them.
Mask wearing became part of the theatergoing experience this season: sign-wielding employees walked the aisles reminding patrons of the requirement, and reminders to wear masks were added to the usual preshow announcements about turning off mobile phones and banning photography. When theaters first reopened, some did not sell food and drink to avoid interfering with mask-wearing; the consumption of refreshments now provides a noticeable loophole for those who don’t like wearing masks.
Some other performing arts venues, including many Off Broadway theaters, continue to ask for proof of vaccination and to mandate masks, and public transit in New York continues to require masks indoors, although compliance is dropping. But many other corners of society, including domestic air travel, have dropped mask mandates and conditions in the city seem to be improving: Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday that the city’s Covid-19 alert level had moved from high to medium.
There are currently 27 shows running in Broadway’s 41 theaters.
The four nonprofit organizations that operate six of the Broadway houses hung onto vaccine mandates longer than the commercial landlords who operate the majority of the theaters. But none of the nonprofits currently has a show running on Broadway, and none plans to resume producing on Broadway until after Labor Day.
Roundabout Theater Company, which is scheduled to begin performances of a Broadway revival of “1776” in September, plans to evaluate its protocols monthly, according to a spokeswoman, Jessica Johnson, who said it is too soon to determine the rules for this fall. The nonprofit is continuing to maintain a mask mandate for its current Off Broadway shows.
The other nonprofits operating on Broadway, which plan to start shows in the fall, said it was too soon to know what their safety protocols would be then.
Public reaction to the mask-optional policy was, predictably, polarized, with some cheering what they saw as an overdue step, and others ruing a retreat they viewed as reckless.
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, a frequent Broadway theatergoer as a Tony voter and professor of theater studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said he would continue to wear a mask while seeing shows. “It’s important, when you have people packed that tightly together, to control the flow of airborne germs at a time when we don’t know what the long-term effect of Covid is going to be,” he said.
Americans who live in the nation’s most socially and economically disadvantaged communities were half as likely as those in wealthier areas to be prescribed new oral anti-viral medications for Covid in recent months, even though a large number of sites that dispense the drugs are in those areas, a study found.
The new study, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, examined more than a million prescriptions that were dispensed for the new anti-viral drugs, Lagevrio and Paxlovid, between Dec. 23, 2021, and May 21, 2022. Researchers analyzed the prescriptions by ZIP code, classifying the geographic areas as zones of low, medium or high social vulnerability.
In areas of high social vulnerability, prescriptions were dispensed at half the rate as in ZIP codes classified as medium or low-social vulnerability, they found.
The disparity occurred despite the fact that about half the sites capable of dispensing the drugs were located in the disadvantaged areas, which are home to roughly half the nation’s residents, the study reported.
The reasons for the disparities were not clear, but patients who want to avail themselves of anti-viral drugs must first test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and then be seen by a health care provider who can prescribe the medication; the dispensing sites do not have on-site providers who can prescribe the drugs.
Many residents in disadvantaged areas may have trouble seeing a doctor or physician assistant who can prescribe the medication, the study’s authors said. One solution might be to facilitate access to testing, clinical assessment and medication in a single visit, the authors suggested.
Cost may also be a barrier, the paper noted, as a federal program that reimbursed uninsured individuals for the costs of testing, seeing a health care provider and medication ended on March 22.
Another C.D.C. study issued on Tuesday highlighted the effectiveness of the medications. An analysis of data from a large health care system in California found that of more than 5,000 people prescribed Paxlovid for mild to moderate Covid, fewer than one percent required hospital or emergency room care. Only six hospitalizations and 39 emergency department visits related to Covid occurred within five to 15 days after use of the drug, the study found.