Dr. Lori Berman holds a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for...

Dr. Lori Berman holds a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children between 6 months and 4 years of age at her practice in Valley Stream on Monday.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

COVID-19 vaccines began going into the arms of Long Island children under 5 years old on Monday, though many health care providers were still waiting for doses to arrive and putting the finishing touches on their distribution plans.

That age group was the only one still not eligible to receive the vaccines, until federal authorities approved the shots from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech late last week.

Some parents on the Island raced to get their children vaccinated on Monday, while doctors said they anticipate others will remain hesitant.

Major health care systems including Northwell Health and Stony Brook Medicine said they had not received their doses for children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years as of Monday, but were hoping to get them sometime this week.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • COVID-19 vaccines on Monday went into the arms of some children under 5 years old, though many health care providers were still waiting for doses to arrive.
  • The age group was the only one still not eligible to receive the vaccines, until federal authorities approved them late last week.
  • Major health care systems including Northwell Health and Stony Brook Medicine — along with some pharmacy chains and private pediatricians — said they hope to receive the vaccines this week.

CVS said it hopes to start administering the shots as soon as Tuesday. Walgreens said it was scheduling appointments for Saturday, though they might be moved up if doses arrive sooner.

Some private pharmacy owners said they would not be handling this littlest age group. They suggested parents contact their pediatricians, believing that group is better equipped to handle the youngest children.

Most pediatricians surveyed by Newsday had not received the vaccines as of Monday. 

One who had was Dr. Eve Meltzer Krief of Huntington Village Pediatrics. She said her office received 100 doses of the vaccine for younger kids on Monday. They expect to start administering doses on Tuesday. 

“We have had a few people give us their names, we have a short waiting list,” she said Monday afternoon. “And then we had a number of calls this morning. We are sending out notifications to all our patients.” 

Federally Qualified Health Centers, which serve low-income residents, are waiting for supplies and will notify clients with electronic messages or texts when the vaccines come in, said David Nemiroff, president and CEO of Long Island FQHC, Inc.

Northwell said it hopes to start administering shots by Wednesday if their delivery arrives from the state. Stony Brook Medicine was hoping for Tuesday, though when supplies would arrive remained unclear. Mount Sinai South Nassau said it is still formulating its plans.

New York State officials said last week that providers outside of New York City have preordered 39,000 doses of the vaccine.

Carolyn Buckley, of West Islip, said she did not hesitate to get her young children vaccinated against the virus.

When she called her pediatrician at Allied Physicians Group first thing Monday morning, she was directed to another doctor in Valley Stream who had received 200 doses around 9 a.m.

The office was nearly an hour away, but that didn’t stop Buckley from jumping in her car and heading to a 2 p.m. appointment.

“I feel very relieved and grateful that my kids are now protected,” said Buckley, an elementary school teacher. “I knew as soon as this vaccine came out that we were getting it.”

Her children — Matthew, 4, and Violet, who turns a year old this week — were inoculated by Dr. Lori Berman.

Buckley said she has been living in fear since the pandemic hit.

“It’s been nerve-wracking,” she said. “As much as we try to live our normal lives, there is always that thought in the back of your mind that they’re not completely protected, like both their parents are.”

Her family has canceled holiday gatherings and avoided sporting events. They sent their oldest children to school and preschool — they have another son, Jack, 7 — because they wanted them to learn and socialize. But it worried them, Buckley said.

Right up until Sunday night, they were debating the wisdom of taking a Disney cruise in late July. But they clicked the button to finalize booking the trip with the knowledge they would be able to get their kids vaccinated as soon as this week.

Dr. Marc Lashley, Berman’s medical partner, said their practice received 100 doses each of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for the youngest children about 9 a.m. Monday via FedEx.

“We are really pushing the Moderna vaccine over the Pfizer,” Lashley said. “Moderna is a two-dose series and Pfizer is a three-dose series and we think it’s always better to have less shots.”

Families “have been coming in over the last month, they’re saying, ‘When is it coming, when is it coming?’ ” he added.

Berman noted that while most young children do not become severely ill from COVID-19, some have died from the virus.

“Not one of them should have died,” she said.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Medicine, said she is urging families whose children are seen by doctors there to make appointments now.

She noted that the vials for the youngest children are color-coded to ensure they are not getting a dose meant for older people.

“Everything is in place to make sure that the right dose gets into the right arm at the right age,” she said.

Nachman also said pediatricians are skilled at handling young children, with special child friendly Band-Aids and stickers, for instance.

It is important for parents to get their children vaccinated now so they are well-protected when school resumes in the fall, she said. Medical experts think another surge of COVID-19 is possible in the fall and winter, she added.

With Lisa L. Colangelo

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