A “striking” number of children in New York City are not getting vaccinated, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
“The sheer magnitude of it has become clear to us in the last few days,” said Mayor de Blasio during his daily novel coronavirus press conference.
Vaccination rates started falling in late March shortly after the New York state PAUSE order took effect and businesses, including doctor’s offices, shuttered their doors.
Now, vaccination rates are down by 63%, according to Mayor de Blasio’s administration. The number of children ages 2 and younger getting vaccinated plunged by 42% and the number of children older than 2 went down by 91% compared rates from the same time last year.
Between March 23 and May 9 of 2019, the mayor said, 400,000 vaccine doses were administered to children in the city. In that six week period this year, fewer than 150,000 doses were administered by doctors.
De Blasio warned that unvaccinated children are at a greater risk of becoming severely ill and needing hospitalization if they were to contract the novel coronavirus.
“We know that anybody with a preexisting condition can be more vulnerable to COVID-19,” said de Blasio. ” So having pneumonia or respiratory disease, makes that child both more susceptible to contracting COVID and more vulnerable to the effect.”
Although initially health officials said that children were less likely to made sick by the novel coronavirus, 147 children in New York City are suffering from a rare COVID-linked inflammatory syndrome similar to Kawasaki disease.
“Getting your child vaccinated is essential work, getting your child vaccinated is a reason to leave your home and whatever it takes to get your child vaccinated it’s worth it,” said de Blasio. “We also have to remember that this is for your child and it’s for everyone because once one child gets sick they can spread it to the next child, we have to get ahead of this.”
Free vaccinations are available at 1,000 facilities as part of New York state’s Vaccines for Children Program. The city’s public hospital system is also offering free vaccinations at all of its clinics, de Blasio said. Parents can call 1-844-NYC-4NYC to make an appointment.
This story first appeared on amny.com.