New York

For NYC families, the launch of COVID-19 vaccines for toddlers means visiting Grandma and Grandpa again

For kids, the day meant stuffed animals, stickers and Starbursts. For parents, toddlers getting vaccinated against COVID-19 meant far more — the chance to renew ties with family and get back to the world after a two-year wait.

On Wednesday, parents wheeled and wheedled New York’s somewhat oblivious youngest residents as the city launched its COVID vaccine program for kids younger than 5.


Max Bookman, 34, and his daughter Cara, 2, of the Upper East Side, were among the first in line. Bookman has been waiting her whole life for this moment: Cara has never been to a grocery store and has never visited the city’s world-renowned museums.

“We completely trust the experts, trust the vaccine,” Bookman, a lawyer, said. “We’re just looking to get back to a sense of normalcy.”


The city’s vaccine rollout for the last unvaccinated age group in the U.S. began with the opening of 10 city-run sites across the five boroughs, after federal health officials gave the green light last week for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be distributed. The vaccine will also be available at a broad array of locations in the days to come.

Jay Wain, 39, of the Upper West Side, came to the Times Square clinic with her two daughters, ages 4 and 1, sporting matching red-and-blue outfits.

With the vaccine’s protection, her family will finally visit their native England this summer, where they will see the children’s grandparents for the first time in three years. And with an immunity boost from the shot, she feels more comfortable sending them on playdates and off to school.

“I know some people think that, ‘Oh, this doesn’t have enough efficacy,’ but I think for me what made me decide to be here, the first thing, is to get some degree of normalcy back in our lives,” Wain said.

For those less eager, city officials encouraged parents apprehensive about the vaccine to reach out to the city’s vaccine hotline — (877) VAX-4NYC — as well as to their pediatricians. Mayer Adams, who attended the opening of the Times Square clinic, told reporters he and the city Health Department may host two virtual town hall events to educate parents on the vaccine.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that just 1 in 5 parents of kids younger than 5 are eager to get their child vaccinated right away — and that more than a quarter of parents don’t plan on giving their kids the shots.

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Katrice Bryson, 41, an immunocompromised stay-at-home mother of two in Hamilton Heights, said that vaccine availability for her autistic 3-year-old son means that she’ll finally be send her tot to pre-K for the first time.


“He needs to go to school,” Bryson said. “He’s been with me for so long. … We’re still in a pandemic, but I feel a little bit better that he’ll be vaccinated.”

The city has received about 20,000 doses of the pediatric vaccine so far, according to city Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan, and another shipment is expected soon. The city-run sites offer the shot only to the young kids, not their older siblings or parents, and they will be open for the next two months.

“We’ve been waiting two and a half years for this moment to protect our littlest ones,” Vasan told reporters at the opening of the Times Square location. “The vaccine is safe. It’s effective against COVID-19 and against its most severe complications. … This is a great day. It’s a great day for our city. It’s a great day for our country.”