New NYC vaccination push for kids age 5-11 as state sees uptick in COVID cases

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City is launching a new campaign Monday to raise vaccination rates among children ages 5 to 11, this as the state deals with an uptick in COVID cases being attributed to the BA.2 omicron subvariant.

The state is seeing "small, relative upticks" in coronavirus cases in parts of New York, including the city.

"It's been creeping up, but it hasn't been the cliff that all of us can recognize," state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said. "We've seen these upticks, but we haven't seen this vertical type rise."

Governor Kathy Hochul said the subvariant, which currently accounts for 42% of cases statewide, is being watched closely.

"There are reports that there is a 30% increase in cases as a result of the omicron BA.2 subvariant," Hochul said. "When you go from eight cases per 100,000 to 11 cases per 100,000, yes, it is 30%, but it was just a few months ago we had over 400 cases per 100,000. I just want people to understand the context. But we are being very diligent if the numbers start increasing."

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More than 7.2 million boosters have been administered in New York, about 56.5% of the people who are eligible, and the state is ready to administer a fourth dose of the vaccine if approved by CDC.

But fewer than half of New York City kids in the 5 to 11 age group have started their vaccine series, prompting the city to launch 20 pop-up vaccine clinics.

The city is not announcing publicly where these vaccine clinics are going to pop up. Instead, principals will be reaching out to parents directly.

The effort begins one day after about 100 parents protested at City Hall demanding the city lift the mask mandate for children under 5.

Toddlers were seen at Sunday's protest chanting, "Burn your mask!"

The parents believe masks should be their decision, not the city's, whether their kids go to daycare or pre-school with a face covering.

"Kids have been the last," one parent said. "They are low risk for COVID. There's no reason for them to be last in our public policies."

But health experts say they're last for a reason, as there is still no vaccine approved for them.

"I would love nothing more than to send my son to day care without a mask," Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said. "But as a scientist and as a doctor and an epidemiologist, I want to keep them safe."

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Even though COVID rates remain low, there is concern about the new subvariant.

"Cases continue to come down, deaths continue to come down, and hospitalizations," Dr. Anthony Fauci said. "That's no time at all to declare victory, because this virus has fooled us before, and we really must be prepared."

Despite the pleas of parents like those who attended Sunday's rally, it doesn't appear that mask mandate is going away any time soon.

And the push is on to get more children who are old enough vaccinated.

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