Hochul spoke with White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Jeff Zients on Wednesday, who called on all U.S. governors to start registering pediatricians in their respective states to prepare for vaccinating children under 12 against COVID-19 when approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
Pfizer requested emergency authorization to use its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 last Thursday.
“I am certainly willing to look at this,” Hochul said of a mandate for students Wednesday during a coronavirus briefing in Manhattan. “I want to go by the data, the numbers, and see how effective the approach is just to encourage people and have many pediatricians make it a part of a child’s [annual] check-up, or make it part of a child’s routine series of getting their vaccinations.
The number of new child COVID cases remains exceptionally high, and has increased with the start of school and the emergence of the more transmissible COVID delta variant.
Cases of U.S. children testing positive for COVID-19 increased 6% from Sept. 23 to Oct. 7, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.
More than 148,000 virus cases in children were added within the past week, with over 750,000 child cases in the past month. More than 6 million U.S. children have tested positive for the virus as of Oct. 7, according to the academy.
More than 500 U.S. children have died of COVID-19 complications since the pandemic began, according to the CDC.
Earlier this month, the state of California announced it would require the COVID vaccine in schools in July 2022, or in time for the 2022-23 school year.
“My default position is to trust the parents to do the right thing,” Hochul said. “As soon as it’s available, we’ll be monitoring how effective it has been to ask parents to do something that they certainly did for their children before they even entered Kindergarten that they made sure they were vaccinated against any disease that could harm them and I believe there will be a strong sentiment of people doing that voluntarily.
“I will monitor that, but I’m willing to take a step if we see numbers we’re not satisfied with,” she added.
Zients vowed Wednesday federal officials will be ready to vaccinate millions of children quickly as soon as the FDA gives the green light for low-dose kids vaccines as early as the end of October.
He laid out a widespread public education plan to encourage parents to get their children ages 5-11 vaccinated.
“We will be ready,” Zients said. “We will bring that vaccine to pediatricians’ offices, schools and community sites.”
Hochul urged New York pediatricians to enroll in the state’s program to prepare to administer the COVID vaccine to children. The governor will hold a video conference call with pediatricians from around the state in the coming days to ensure they have an efficient federal delivery and distribution strategy.
Children may be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine while at school, Hochul said.
“This is going to be a game-changer for us,” she said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of work now, but we have the confirmation that this is inevitable. It’s going to happen. … So pediatricians, start getting ready. It’s coming. It’s coming, and it’s not a second too soon for us.”
The average number of new U.S. coronavirus cases has dipped by 12% in a week to about 92,000, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday. Hospitalizations are down 11% and deaths, which normally lag behind the other indicators, have declined by 5%.
The state reported 4,658 new COVID cases Tuesday with a daily infection rate of 3.05% and 2.53% over the last seven days, according to the governor’s office.
The North Country continues to have the state’s highest rate of new virus infections at 5.76% positive Tuesday.
The Finger Lakes and Western New York regions have similar positivity rates at 4.75% and 4.62%, respectively.
The Capital Region’s infection rate has hovered around 3.67% over the last three days.
Thirty-two New Yorkers died from virus complications Tuesday.
Tribune News Service contributed to this report.