At least seven locations in Newark began offering the pediatric COVID vaccine this week for children as young as 5 and city schools worked to set up vaccination events, steps that state health officials say will help keep classrooms safe.
The New Jersey Department of Health announced Wednesday that about 760,000 5- to 11-year-olds in the state became eligible to receive the lower dose Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, after it was greenlit by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We want children to remain in their classrooms this year, learning, sharing, and socializing with their friends but doing it safely,” said State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli earlier this week at a coronavirus news conference. “The best way to ensure that that continues is to have as many individuals as possible vaccinated, including those 5 years of age and older.”
The pediatric vaccine is administered in two doses three weeks apart, and is a lower dosage than the one for ages 12 and up, according to the CDC. Clinical data has shown the vaccine is 90.7% effective in preventing COVID among 5- to 11-year-olds, similar to the effectiveness in adults.
About 203,800 doses of the pediatric vaccine began arriving in New Jersey this week, and were being distributed to more than 230 sites across the state, Persichilli said. Those sites include primary care practices, independent and chain pharmacies, county and local sites, federally qualified health centers, acute care hospitals, urgent care, and university sites.
Ongoing weekly shipments of the children’s vaccine from the federal government are expected, the state health department said in a statement.
Persichilli also said the health department is working with the New Jersey Department of Education to support school vaccination events, adding that at least 28 schools are planning to hold events this month.
Newark public and charter schools, in partnership with community organizations, have been offering the vaccine to eligible students, their families, and school staff, at various pop-up sites on their campuses since the school year began, officials said. Plans are in the works, they said, to set up vaccination clinics targeting the youngest eligible age group at some schools.
Newark Public Schools’ weekly COVID testing program for students and staff finally kicked off this week — two months into the school year.
District spokesperson Nancy Deering said that about 10,000 students, out of roughly 37,000 total students, have submitted consent forms to get tested on a weekly basis by Saint James Health, a community health center, and JL Hudson Holdings, a provider with locations in South Orange and New York City.
In addition to regular testing, Deering said, students are currently offered the vaccine at “any school offering the program,” which varies according to the posted schedule. On Friday, vaccines for ages 12 and up were being offered at East Side High School until 4 p.m., the schedule showed.
Deering added that the vaccine clinics will also offer the pediatric shots but that she didn’t know when that would start.
Great Oaks Legacy Charter School also plans to hold vaccine sites at its schools so that families who are interested can have easier access for their elementary school-aged kids. The charter school system of six schools will hold a virtual town hall next week with health professionals so that students’ families can ask questions they might have about the vaccine for children.
“The purpose of this town hall is to share resources with our families, so that they can make an informed decision regarding the vaccine for their children,” said Dominick DiFalco, chief strategy officer for the charter school system.
KIPP has also offered vaccine clinics at many of its schools throughout the city for staff, students, and their families, said KIPP NJ spokesperson Jessica Shearer. The charter school system hopes to hold more clinics in the future for eligible students, including 5- to 11-year-olds, she added.
North Star Academy, a charter system with 14 schools throughout the city, said it plans to hold weekly vaccine clinics for 5- to 11-year-olds in the coming weeks.
Sites across the state’s 21 counties are already offering the pediatric COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 and up, Persichilli said. Some of those include the following sites in Newark:
- City of Newark Department of Health, 394 University Ave., Newark.
- University Hospital, 150 Bergen St., Newark.
- Guardy’s Pharmacy, 403-409 Bloomfield Ave., Newark.
- Komishane’s Pharmacy, 199 Stuyvesant Ave., Newark.
- Newark Community Health Center- Ferry Street, 92 Ferry St., Newark.
- Saint James Health Adult Clinic, 228 Lafayette St., Newark.
- Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, 201 Lyons Ave., Newark.
More vaccination sites can be found using the state’s vaccine appointment finder website.