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With scholarships, Hochul ramps up efforts to vaccinate youngest NYers

Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced that the

Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced that the state is offering children who get vaccinated between Nov. 22 and Dec. 20 a chance at full college scholarships to CUNY and SUNY schools. Credit: Governor Kathy Hochul's office

This story was reported by Rachelle Blidner, Matthew Chayes and Lisa L. Colangelo. It was written by Colangelo.

The state is ramping up efforts to get more of the youngest New Yorkers vaccinated against COVID-19 by offering a chance at full college scholarships to CUNY and SUNY schools, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday.

The scholarships will go to the 50 winners of a lottery open to children between 5 and 11 who get vaccinated between Nov. 22 and Dec. 20, Hochul said at an event in Mount Vernon.

"There’s two great gifts you can give your children: One is the gift of good health and that’s what they will get when they get the vaccine, and second is the shot at getting this full ride scholarship," the governor said.

Earlier this year, the Cuomo administration oversaw a similar program offering scholarships to vaccinated teens in the 12-to-17 age group.

Hochul said the state has more than 700,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for children — enough to vaccinate half the population in the 5 to 11 age group.

"We already have the doses ready to administer and we are ready to get more as soon as we need them," she said.

An incentive for parents

Of all New Yorkers, Hochul said, 75% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside, said he hopes the scholarship lottery encourages more parents to get their children vaccinated.

"I am in favor of almost anything that will incentivize people to get vaccinated," Glatt said. "It is the opinion of most experts in the field that the more people we vaccinate, the more likely we will be able to prevent the development of resistant variant strains, and more importantly, prevent illness and death in the general population."

What to know

  • The state is offering a chance at full-ride scholarhips to children who get the COVID-19 vaccine between Nov. 22 and Dec. 20.
  • Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state has more than 700,000 doses of the vaccine for childen — enough to vaccinate half the population in the 5 to 11 age group.
  • Suffolk County opened a vaccination clinic Tuesday inside the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge targeting children between the ages of 5 and 17.

There were 4,108 new positive cases of COVID-19 reported to the state on Monday including 215 in Nassau County and 257 in Suffolk County. The statewide daily positivity rate, based on 115,506 test results, was 3.56%. The seven-day average of new positive cases across the state was lower at 2.65%, and the seven-day average on Long Island was 2.50%.

State officials said there were 36 deaths from COVID-19 in New York on Monday. None were recorded in Nassau or Suffolk counties.

Across Long Island and in New York City, officials are finding ways to get more young people vaccinated against the virus

Suffolk County officials opened a vaccination clinic Tuesday inside the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge targeting children between the ages of 5 and 17. The COVID-19 vaccines will be administered free, with the clinic operating after school hours and on weekends.

"We’re encouraging parents to get kids vaccinated, and we want to make it as easy as possible," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said during a news conference at the county building.

Bellone’s office did not immediately have figures on the number of vaccinated children in Suffolk County.

Nassau County officials did not have those statistics either, saying the state generally tracks that information.

In response to a Newsday request, the state did not immediately make available the number of vaccinated children in the age group.

In New York City, 4,500 shots were administered Monday at public schools to children between 5 and 11, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. In total, about 25,000 children in the city have received their first dose of the vaccine so far, at locations including doctor's offices, the mayor said.

Bellone said the FDA's recent approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 made his son Michael eligible, and he will be getting the shot "in the near future."

The county executive's two older children have already received the shot. Having all his children vaccinated will give the family "confidence" and provide added protections for Bellone’s 80-year-old mother, he said.

"It could save the life of a child or a loved one in your family who is vulnerable, older or has underlying medical conditions," Bellone said of getting children vaccinated.

Thousands of children vaccinated

Over this past weekend, more than 10,000 eligible children are believed to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 on Long Island, according to an estimate by Dr. Matthew Harris, the medical director of Northwell Health’s vaccination program. Harris provided the data Tuesday afternoon on a Newsday Live webinar.

"I think we’re well into the vaccination program — even just four of five days in," he said.

In an interview later, Harris said he based the estimate on his knowledge of vaccination programs at counterpart health systems on the Island. At Northwell’s mass-vaccination sites — in Bohemia, Riverhead and New Hyde Park — about 1,100 children in the 5-to-11 age group have been vaccinated. That figure doesn’t include vaccinations administered at, say, private doctor's offices or pharmacies, Harris said.

Suffolk County Police Officer Tom Arana-Wolfe, a school resource officer in the Town of Huntington, spoke at Bellone's news conference, saying his family was "very happy" his 6-year-old daughter, Violet, could get fully vaccinated in time for Christmas so they can visit with older relatives.

Violet got the shot Thursday morning before school. The needle "didn’t hurt" and she "was running around" that day, Arana-Wolfe said.

Violet was "a little tired" the next day but had no other side effects and was able to go to school.

The family’s experience also helped alleviate the concerns of other parents in their social circle, Arana-Wolfe said. He encouraged other families to tell their friends and relatives about their experiences as a way to reduce vaccine hesitancy.

"We had a birthday party with seven-year-olds and snakes. The scarier thing was parents asking us how the shot went," he said. "They were relieved. They feel better and now will make their appointments because they knew someone who went through it and it wasn’t all the things they were worried about."

The free county vaccine site will run Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Dennison Building, 100 Veterans Memorial Hwy. in Hauppauge. On Thursday, Veterans Day, the site will operate from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Bellone said. A parent or legal guardian must accompany minors and fill out a form attesting that their child is eligible for the shot.

Walk-ins will be accepted but appointments are encouraged. Residents can make an appointment by calling 311 within Suffolk or at suffolkcountyny.gov/vaccine.

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