Dr. Martin Malachovsky of Apple Pediatrics in Midtown Manhattan has been contacted by three private schools looking for vaccine doses over the past few days but his practice has none to give. Ever since the Pfizer vaccine was cleared for use in children ages five to 11 last Tuesday, demand has been crazy. Malachovsky had initially ordered 1,000 doses from the city’s Department of Health, but received 300 doses last week and administered 200 of them in the past two days alone.
“The schools are emailing me asking when I can get more doses and the Department of Health is not getting back to us with clear answers,” said Dr. Malachovsky. “We have to put everything on hold.”
It’s been a familiar chain of events for the pandemic. After months of preparation and coordination between pediatricians, hospitals, schools, and pharmacies, officials nervously watched to see if the system could handle the demand. Same movie, different age range. But this time, the sequel is getting better reviews.
“It couldn’t have worked out better or gone smoother,” said Dr. Warren Seigel, director of pediatrics at Coney Island Hospital and chair of the New York State chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Parents who want their children vaccinated can find a place to get them vaccinated, whether it’s in their pediatricians offices, whether it’s in a hospital, or whether it’s primary-care clinics, or a pharmacy, or at a school pop-up.”
Nationally, nearly 1 million children have gotten at least one dose of the two-shot vaccine, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters on Wednesday. In New York, 31,337 of 660,000 eligible children have received a shot — with nearly a fifth of them getting it at one of the mobile clinics set up outside of public schools. A Department of Education department spokesperson called the demand simply “incredible.”
Still, like Dr. Malachovsky’s predicament, there have been some hiccups and indications that demand may outpace supply in the short-term. Parents around the city reported waiting in long lines outside of schools only to be told that the supply at each location was limited to 50 doses, and that they and their children would need to come back another day. (On Tuesday, the mayor said the city had addressed that issue with additional mobile units that could respond to locations with greater demand.) South Slope Pediatrics in Brooklyn will run out of its initial doses by Friday, said Matteo Trisolini, the practice’s director of operations. Trisolini requested 1,200 additional doses from the city, but was told he would get only 100 doses because of limited supply. Trisolini also does not know when his next order will arrive and has stopped scheduling appointments.
Both Trisolini and Malachovsky acknowledged that hitches were to be expected at this phase and the rollout, in many ways, mirrored what happened last spring when shots for most adults were approved. As before, some providers expressed concern about wasting unused vaccine (each vial contains 10 doses and has a 10-hour shelf-life), but officials reassured them that the city had plenty of vaccine on hand, said Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, a pediatric and infectious disease expert at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.
“Pediatricians are the backbone of the immunization system. They’ve got the refrigerators and infrastructure and they know how to do vaccinations,” said Dr. Bromberg. “But this is something new and it’s not coming in the standard supply chain, so to speak. There will be bumps in the road but the city has made provisions.”
Both the city and state have offered incentives to parents and their children to get vaccinated. The city is now giving $100 gift cards to children who are vaccinated and Governor Kathy Hochul announced that children who get vaccinated will be eligible for a lottery giving away 50 full-ride scholarships to SUNY schools.
The shots couldn’t come at a better time as winter weather and holiday travel begins. P.S. 166 elementary school in Queens was slated to host a vaccination drive on Wednesday but it had to cancel because the school went full remote on Tuesday after at least 19 students and three staff members recently tested positive.