The city has launched an intensive effort over the next month to get our kids vaccinated. The vaccine is currently approved for everyone over age 12.
In the past week, over 250,000 calls to parents have been made by the city, letting them know that vaccination could be done in their community or even in their home, it's free, and you get the $100 incentive for every family member who gets vaccinated, Mayor Bill de Blasio informed this morning. He did not know how many eligible public school students have been vaccinated, however. Here are his answers to some of the other questions reporters asked.
Question: Can you tell us if the city is negotiating mandatory vaccinations for teachers?
Mayor: We've had conversations with the unions representing our school staff of all kinds on the different ways to keep schools safe. But there's nothing that's been decided beyond what we've announced publicly.
Question: Is there a possibility that eligible students will need to show proof of vaccination to start school?
Mayor: "We do not anticipate students having to show proof. We obviously want to know who is vaccinated. We want to encourage everyone who's not vaccinated to get vaccinated. We do not anticipate having to provide proof."
Question: How many New York City schoolchildren eligible for the vaccine have gotten vaccinated through your efforts on this last push before the start of school?
Mayor: "I don't have it by public school kids versus kids in other schools, but I do have it by age for the city. So right now, we're over 56% of our 12 to 17-year-olds have gotten at least one dose. That's almost 300,000 kids."
Question: What would be the decision of the City in situations where a parent was not comfortable sending their kids to school for fears of the Delta variant?
Mayor: "We want parents to see what's going on. We want them to have a dialogue with their principal, their teachers, if they have real concerns or questions. We want them to get their kids vaccinated. I think the more that those things happen, the more you're going to see parents decide it does make sense. And their kids need to be in school for so many reasons. So, that's the approach we're taking.
"If a parent chooses to not have their child in school, you know, they could do that, but that's not what we're doing. We're creating a system for everyone to come to school and be safe. Dr. Varma, would you speak to why we have confidence that the safest place for our kids to be is in school?
Senior Advisor Varma: "As the Mayor has said, you know, we – there were a couple of really important points to consider. First is the success that we had last year with in-person schooling. You know, clearly, we know a lot of families chose last year, not to have their kids attend in-person school. But for those who did we were able to keep rates of transmission among children and among staff at some of the lowest levels there are in the city. And we documented that through extensive analysis of testing data from the schools and testing data outside the schools.
"Of course, things are going to be different this year. The virus has changed. It has become a bit more dangerous in terms of being able to transmit more readily from one person to the other. At the same time, we have a very strong level of defense, which is vaccinations. And while vaccines aren't available to everybody who is in the school we know that they are available obviously to everybody 12 and above. And last year in our analysis we found that the majority of infections that were introduced into schools and resulted in transmission were first introduced by adults. So, I think that by really, you know, pushing as hard as we can on vaccination for those who are eligible we're going to be able to keep our schools safe for kids there.
"On top of that, of course, we have also added in additional measures. We had strong ventilation last year. We're doubling down on that as well, too. We had a strong testing program last year that will continue this year. And of course, as the Mayor has announced previously, there will be a universal mask mandate. It doesn't matter if you're vaccinated or not.
"So, we certainly understand and empathize with parents who worry about the risk associated with their kids. This is a risk we all worry about, myself as a parent. But we also know that the strongest way to get protected is to be vaccinated. And we also know that the health benefits that come from being in school, not just COVID, but mental health, emotional health – all kids benefit tremendously from all of those things. So, we would really want to make sure we get that message out and do everything we can to alleviate parents’ very appropriate concerns about this issue."