Governor Hochul Highlights Preparations for Vaccinating School-Aged Children and Announces #GetTheVaxFacts Campaign to Combat COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation

Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted preparations for vaccinating school-aged children and announced the “#GetTheVaxFacts” campaign to combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks are available below:

“Governor Hochul: Hello, everybody, thank you for joining. The ranks are getting smaller. All right. So, here’s my promise. Everybody who’s shown up in person gets to ask a question. How’s that for a real treat today? Yeah. For you, not for me so much, but that’s okay. It’s all about transparency, right? It’s been a very busy week and I’m real excited to talk about the preparations we’ve been making to get our children ready to be vaccinated. So, first of all, let’s just look at some of the numbers and how we’re doing.

COVID numbers are looking good. We launched last week our centralized COVID hubs. So you don’t have such a hassle trying to identify all the different sources of information that aren’t important to you and what I want to say about that is we had over 38,500 unique views. I had no idea there that many reporters in the State of New York. That’s extraordinary. So, that’s what we’re talking about there. So good news that our data.

Our COVID update. Want to make sure that we look at the numbers. Is that what’s on the screen? I think I missed one here. Let’s go back. The seven day average looking better, looking like we’ve hit a nice plateau for now. Some of the areas around the North Country, Western, New York, Central and Capital can do a little bit better, but in Mohawk Valley we’re making good progress. I’m pleased with these numbers, particularly as we talked about this trend of heading into the fall season, our vulnerabilities are there. And also we don’t look at just that, we also look at the per hundred thousand updates. We were dropping our regional cases per a hundred thousand. So that’s improving dramatically. We’re monitoring those closely.

Looking at our hospitalizations. Nice trend. There, you can look at about where we were last year, but then this is what keeps me up at night, that spike you see. That’s what happened last year, Halloween, who would’ve thought, but that became the first date when our numbers started really going up. Then we hit the Thanksgiving holiday, the Jewish holidays, the Christian holidays, we hit New Year’s Eve, hit the Super Bowl, and only after that trend did we start seeing the numbers go down. Now, the difference is we now have a vaccine, so that does not have to be our destiny. We can actually keep it as flat as that is. It actually have a lower trend, but again, it depends on how people behave over the holidays. And we hope that we won’t see that spike again.

We’re continuing to lose people. Thirty-five people were lost over the last day and I want to extend our sympathies to their families. And it’s, you know, I actually lost two relatives related to my husband just in the last week as well. So it’s still continuing.

Vaccine progress. Yes. Shooting for 90 percent but we’re at 86.8 percent in terms of our 18 plus it’s one dose. If you got one dose, don’t forget the second one – you’re not fully inoculated and protected until you get that other dose. Our numbers with the young people are going up. That number was quite a bit lower when we started tracking this, so we’re at about 60 percent up from 50 percent making some progress with the older children. So that’s good news as well.

We watched the breakthroughs. Everybody knows somebody who got vaccinated, who came down with the virus after being vaccinated. I’m not aware of cases where people have had booster shots and had a breakthrough case, but we’ll be certainly monitoring that in case that starts happening. But the point is, while these are testing positive, it does not mean they have anywhere near the severity that they would have experienced had they not been vaccinated.

Our hospitalizations again, still sticking around – that’s what we watch. Hospitalizations of the breakthrough infections and those are actually not in a bad place.

So what I mentioned at the outset, great news from the FDA on pediatric vaccinations, they just okayed Pfizer to be able to be allocated for children ages five to 11. We have been waiting for this, parents have been waiting for this, schools have been waiting for this, and this is really a breakthrough. We saw too many narratives and pictures of children and other parts of the country struggling on ventilators in hospitals. It’s a scary spectrum for parents and this is how we can protect them. We now have this available. We’ve been making preparations for weeks now. I had spoken to the New York Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics to get all their pediatricians on board. We’ve been in regular communication with all the providers. So it’s going to be various places that parents can go to, to have their children vaccinated as soon as it’s available. So let’s check out the timeline there in a minute, but, first of all, I want to introduce someone because this is such a serious campaign, a campaign to convince parents and schools that their children need to be vaccinated, to get them into different facilities, get them into the schools, get them into the pediatrician’s office that I wanted to dedicate a real expert to this. Dr. Emily Lutterloh. She is the New York State director of Epidemiology. She’s going to head our efforts to vaccinate children, ages five to 11.

She is a very experienced doctor. She’s an expert she’s certified in infectious disease and pediatric infectious disease, which is like a very specialized area, but we have the expert. She worked at the CDC before, so she knows what she’s doing there. And we’re delighted to have her joining us today. And I’d like her to come up and say a couple of words about the approach we’re taking to make sure that we get more children vaccinated. Dr. Lutterloh.

Dr. Emily Lutterloh: “Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon. Good afternoon, everyone. Vaccinations against COVID-19 are key to overcoming this pandemic. We have over 1.5 million kids, age five to 11 in New York State and we would like to vaccinate them and get them protected as soon as we can.

Here in New York, we’ve been preparing for this for weeks. We’ve been working with our partners like the New York State Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. We launched a vax to school campaign to get kids vaccinated, and we’ll expand that effort for the five to 11 age group. And we’ll continue to get the word out that these are really good vaccines. They’re safe. They’ve been tested, they’re effective and they’re free and easily available.

I’m the mother of three children, two of whom are in the five to 11 age group. And I’ve been looking forward to getting them vaccinated basically since the vaccines first came out. Like a lot of parents, I’ve dealt with the kids getting sick and having to keep them home from school and get them tested. And I even had one in quarantine. We all want to get back to normal. And the fastest way to do that is to get as many people vaccinated as we can.

Once we have the CDC recommendations, we can start vaccinating this age group. We know that parents want to be able to talk to their child’s pediatrician and get the kids vaccinated where they go for their other medical care. That means we need our pediatricians and other clinicians who see children to talk to parents about the vaccine and to encourage those who are eligible to get the vaccine and to give the vaccine in their office. I’ve found that the more I learn about the COVID vaccine, the more it makes sense to get it done.

Once we have the CDC recommendations, we can start vaccinating this age group. We know that parents want to be able to talk to their child’s pediatrician and get the kids vaccinated, where they go for their other medical care.

That means we need our pediatricians and other clinicians who see children to talk to parents about the vaccine and to encourage those who are eligible to get the vaccine and to give the vaccine in their office. I’ve found that the more I learn about the COVID vaccine, the more it makes sense to get it done.

So if you’re a parent, ask your pediatrician, if they’ll be giving the COVID-19 vaccine, talk to them about any concerns you have, be sure to get the facts from a trusted, reliable source, like your doctor, and then make your appointments.

And pediatricians, please plan to provide the vaccine to your patients. Join your colleagues who have already enrolled in the New York State COVID-19 vaccination program and start scheduling your patients as soon as you can.

If you have questions, reach out to us or reach out to your colleagues, we’re also setting up webinars for pediatricians. So please join us. And again, vaccinating all New Yorkers against COVID-19, including our children, is a key part of what we need to do to overcome this pandemic. Thank you.”

Governor Hochul: “Thank you, Dr. Lutterloh on top of everything else you’re doing to help protect the people of the state. You’re also taking care of three children. So thank you. And so thank you for bringing that very personal perspective to the urgency associated with getting our children protected. Again, we’re heading into the time when more kids will be in doors or more exposed, and there might be some sense of getting a little tired of wearing the masks and kids are going to, they’re not sure what they’re going to do.

We know once they get inoculated, once they get this vaccine, they will be safe. And that’s so important for all of us, as you say, to get back to normal. So thank you doctor.

So on the timetable, the great news was just last night. The FDA advisory committee recommended Pfizer for five to 11 year olds.

And now the next step is for the CDC to meet and they’ll meet over November 2nd to November 3rd. We hope that happens on the second, and then we’ll be looking forward to their guidance. In terms of planning for this, we’ve been ordering, and I’ll give you some numbers on the supplies we’ve been ordering, but it is imminent.

It is happening soon. And this is extremely exciting news. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.

We’ve already ordered a lot of vaccines. Our early preparation office efforts are paying off. We’ve had over 370 providers across New York already pre-order 380,000 pediatric doses from the Department of Health.

We’re also actively making sure that they’re available in every region. So these are not, these are just the first wave. There will be orders available throughout. I have been assured, because I keep asking this question when I’m talking to the white house, when I’m talking to Pfizer, talking to anybody else, will we have enough?

Because all of us remember, the frustration of the early days, when as more categories of people were eligible to receive the vaccine and the supplies were short and they were in short supply, and people are traveling all over the state. There’s a lot of frustration, so we will not go to that place again.

We want to make sure, I think there will be an initial rush of people wanting these, which is good. I suspect there will come a time when parents who would not get their kids, get themselves vaccinated. We may have to have some more conversations with them on how important this is. So this is our first wave of the region.

The regions, how many are going? This is where they’re going. You can go through the list here to see the pre-orders from New York state. And what’s interesting the chain pharmacies also get tens of thousands of additional doses directly from the federal government. So that number is not in here, but there will be plenty.

So we’ll see where we need to bump up the efforts. Doctor, I want to thank you for again, overseeing this whole effort to make sure there’s plenty of supply, as well as locations where these can be distributed. So this is what we’re working on.

And school districts as well. We’ve reached out to all the school districts saying, what are your plans? Can you help us get these in schools? And so far, 350 school districts intend to hold vaccination events and on 390 thus far said they’ll send out communications.

We have asked the school districts to tell us how they want to do it. Do they want to do it in the school? Are they going to partner with the local health departments? Working with local pharmacies? School-based health centers?

There’s a lot of different ways to approach this, but they are fully engaged. And this is really important.

One more thing I want to talk about is those of you who dine at all in New York City know that you cannot walk into a restaurant without showing you’re a cell phone, pass. Most of you probably have it, not on paper, but on your cell phone, the Excelsior pass, which has been great to show that you’ve been vaccinated.

So we want more people to come to New York. We want them to go to our restaurants. We want them to go to our plays. I was at a play Friday night, had to show my pass to walk into. That’s great. But as people come from other parts of the country and around the world, we want to make sure that their states have the same blueprint that we developed so they can download this, start taking the steps necessary. So their own residents can travel freely.

And we want to make sure that our New York residents can travel to other states that had this requirement. So we’re trying to create this synergy. We’ve been working closely on this, so we can welcome back people to all of our entertainment venues, our cultural event venues and other places to make sure that there’s no barriers, no barriers to people coming to our great state to enjoy the reopening.

And on our booster update. Yes, that is me. I guess we call that a green screen. I didn’t realize that was going to be green behind me there. My staff warned me that someone could do something funny when you’re in front of a green screen.

I hope they’re wrong. I had J&J so I was eligible to receive the booster shot. I will say it did not hurt. I did not have any ill effects. My staff kept checking in, are you okay? I kept a full day of interviews and meetings and I’m all the way through the night and I didn’t miss a beat.

So I anticipate that many people have developed sort of a resistance to this, and it is a smaller dose. So I felt great after it. And I felt really good and safer. You literally feel safer once you have that booster shot. So anybody who’s not had their primary series get one, two. And now this will be your third shot. If you had J&J you only have one to go.

We’ve had already 787,000 new Yorkers had a booster shot, 787,000. That’s extraordinary, but we have, 5.5 million New Yorkers are eligible. So we want to make sure those numbers get up. This is what we have so far. You can see the chart on where people are getting their booster shots.

I’m not aware of any shortage of supply. And this is something we monitor intensely to make sure that everybody has what they need throughout the state. We are going to continue our Get Out the Facts campaign, because one of the reasons we’re identifying why people are not getting vaccinated is that they are believing the lies on social media.

It’s dangerous, it’s misleading, and it puts people at risk and it’s hindering our entire battle against COVID because people are reading this, Facebook’s most viewed article in early 2020 raised doubt about the COVID vaccine. Well, that’s great news also, misinformation.

Someone hijacked and put out misinformation, making it look like it was legitimate from us on how you would need a vaccination before you can get a drivers license.

Putting out, falsities putting out lies and it is dangerous. So we want people to get the facts. We have a Get out The Facts campaign to combat the misinformation. So please share this with others that you know, we’re targeting misinformation about pregnancy and fertility and side effects and safety and all sorts of other government conspiracy theories.

So, who would’ve thought that something like this could happen, but it has, and we have to fight back. And this is how we’re going to fight back.

So our next vaccine mandates are right around the corner. November 1st. We had those in place to make sure that, all of our healthcare workers are fully vaccinated and we have 86.4% already met the mandate in our psychiatric centers – that’s great. Our Office for People with Developmental Disabilities in our hospitals, they’re already 100% vaccinated. That’s incredible. So further proof that these vaccine mandates have worked. I’m really proud of the people who stepped up and all the healthcare institutions and entities across the state.

And as a result, when people enter one of our healthcare facilities, they will have the confidence to know that the person taking care of them will not make them sicker than they were when they walked in by contracting COVID. So that’s the good news. And to wrap up our football, we had our campaign and we had some players here a couple of weeks ago, and knows you from the Buffalo area – that’s Bruce Smith. We had 60 winners in total, and I want to thank New York’s teams – the Jets, the Giants, and the Bills for participating in this. We’d over 60 winners who won tickets and all sorts of great swag. And so thank them. And we wish them the very best for the rest of their season. I have all their records on the screen, but I’m not going to say them because only one out of three teams is going to be happy with that. So I look forward to seeing the Jets and the Bills play soon. And when the Bills match up against the Giants I’ll be there too, if it’s not this season. So I’m constantly watching our football and I thank them again for validating the importance of what we’re doing on how they want their fans to get vaccinated.

So that is our story for the week. I’ll look forward to taking your questions.”

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