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LI doctors: Inundated with parents seeking COVID-19 shot for kids

The CDC late Tuesday approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

The CDC late Tuesday approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Parents of young children across Long Island headed to get their children vaccinated on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday / Reece T. Williams; Howard Schnapp

Doctors’ offices on Long Island were inundated on Thursday with parents anxious to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, two days after federal authorities approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds.

With demand booming, health care providers were gearing up to administer thousands of the vaccines to children in Nassau and Suffolk counties as quickly as possible.

Dr. Kerry Fierstein, a pediatrician in Plainview, said one mother called her office in tears because she could not get an appointment immediately for her child.

"They want appointments today, tomorrow and next week. They don’t want to be told they’re going to get an appointment two weeks from now or three weeks from now," said Fierstein, who also heads Allied Physicians Group, a Melville-based partnership of 150 pediatric providers.

Doctors in her group have already administered several hundred shots to patients ages 5 to 11, but the parents of thousands more want the vaccine for their children, she said. The group is planning a mass vaccination event next weekend.

"I’m not surprised by the demand," Fierstein said. "People are looking forward to this. They’re looking forward to protecting their kids and trying to get life back to normal to some degree."

Dr. Marc Lashley, a pediatrician with offices in Valley Stream and Rockaway Park, said he has been flooded with calls. Contrary to the findings of some national polls, most of the parents of his patients want their children vaccinated — immediately.

A poll his office took of those parents found 66% want their children to get the shots. That contrasts with a national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation that found only about one-third of parents were certain they will get their children inoculated right away.

Lashley said opinions may vary in different parts of the country.

"Here on Long Island, at least in Nassau, it seems that people really want it," he said.

He has received 300 doses so far and estimates he will need to inoculate at least 500 of his 700 patients in that age group.

"We are really ramped up and ready to do it," he said, adding that his office, like others, is hiring extra, temporary staff. "We’re very excited."

Dr. Jennifer Shaer, a Riverhead pediatrician, said her office has been "bombarded" with calls. But "our biggest problem is we don’t have the manpower to inject them as fast as people want them," she added.

She is hearing from parents on both sides of the issue.

"There’s a huge demand from the people who have been waiting for this, and then there are plenty of people who are saying, ‘Oh God, I would never do that to my kid,'" she said.

She is opening her office on Sundays to try to meet the demand for shots.

Federal health officials on Tuesday night gave the final signoff to Pfizer’s kid-sized COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opens a major expansion of the nation’s vaccination campaign

The doses are just a third of the amount given to teens and adults. The decision marks the first opportunity for Americans under 12 to get any COVID-19 vaccine.

Suffolk County has 152,574 children ages 5-13, while Nassau County has 146,850, according to 2019 population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Doctors on Long Island said they expect a big rush at the start, then a leveling off, then a campaign to convince hesitant parents to allow their children to get the shots.

"We’re being bombarded, but we know that’s going to die out after a little bit of time and then we’ll be left with the people who are nervous about the vaccine," Shaer said.

New York City is expected to receive about 330,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for children over the next few days, city Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi said Thursday morning.

City-run sites started offering the vaccine Thursday, and public schools will have the shots beginning Monday.

COVID-19 indicators climbed slightly on Long Island for the third straight day, with the seven-day average for positivity in testing increasing to 2.22% on Wednesday. The number of new confirmed cases was 238 in Nassau and 340 in Suffolk.

Statewide, 33 people died on Wednesday of causes linked to COVID-19, including one each in Nassau and Suffolk.

Northwell Health said it is rolling out vaccine clinics for children ages 5 to 11. Most sessions run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments are required.

They'll be doing so at locations such as Babies R Us on Sunrise Highway in Bohemia; 1 Marcus Ave. in New Hyde Park; the Robert Entenmann campus at 4 W. Second St. in Riverhead; and the Dolan Building on Pulaski Road in Greenlawn.

Parents can call 844-919-8222 or go to northwell.edu/vaccinelocations.

Northwell's Cohen Children's Medical Center held a vaccination event on Thursday where the children of doctors and others at the hospital received the vaccine, as well.

Allied Physicians Group has vaccination clinics Nov. 13 and 14 at Coleman Country Day Camp in Freeport and Crestwood Country Day Camp in Melville.

Follow this link for more vaccine locations for children. Sign up to get text alerts about COVID-19 and other topics at newsday.com/text.

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