Talya Lippman, a freshman at Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls, was one of the first young people who entered the gym at the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach’s Hirt Family Campus in Woodmere last Sunday. Lippman sat demurely on a folding chair, waiting to receive her first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the Covid-19 virus.
“It means a lot to me to get vaccinated — not just for me, but to help lessen the spread of Covid,” she said. “I’m very excited. A lot of my friends got Covid. Now we’re getting vaccinated, and to go through this together is a new experience.”
Lippman was among roughly 300 students, adolescents and teens between ages 12 and 15, who got their initial inoculation through a collaboration between HALB and the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway, aided by the UJA-Federation New York, which brought in Onsite Medical Solutions to administer the shots. SKA, in Hewlett Bay Park, is one of four schools under the HALB umbrella. In three weeks the students will get their second shot.
“UJA is dedicated to rebuilding New York in the aftermath of the pandemic,” spokeswoman Rina Cohen wrote in an email, noting the organization’s role in connecting Jewish day schools, JCCs and social service agencies with clinics, hospital and pharmacies to get the vaccine.
“Helping to vaccinate our youth is a critical piece of this effort,” Cohen added. “School-aged children were particularly impacted this year, and we have the opportunity to end the year on a brighter note.”
Cohen said that the UJA anticipated that its day school initiative, which began on May 10 — the first day the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 12- to 15-year-olds — could reach more than 1,500 students in 10 days. Up to now, the organization has helped bring vaccines to communities that were hit especially hard or where there were barriers to access, with more than 20 pop-up vaccine sites, including the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in the Five Towns in February.
Adults and young people alike are eager to reconnect with friends and go places. Yeshiva of South Shore eighth-grader Adir Sacknovitz was the last person in his family to get vaccinated, but was no less excited. “I can go to [summer] camp and sports games,” he said, waiting his turn in the HALB gym.
On May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks inside or outside, except in homeless and health care facilities, nursing homes and schools.
“HAFTR and HALB came together to do this as community event, and it’s fabulous we were able to do it,” said Ari Solomon, HAFTR’s executive director. “We want to make our community safer, and then we can get back to normal.” Solomon and HALB Lower School Principal Richard Altabe coordinated the inoculation event.
Not long after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for young people, Atlantic Beach resident David Sharin made appointments for his son Matthew, 15, and his youngest daughter, Julia, 12, at Aqueduct Racetrack last Saturday. “Psyched to get all of my family fully vaccinated,” David said, noting that he, his wife, Elissa, and their older daughter, Amy, had already been vaccinated.
The Mount Sinai South Nassau and Town of Hempstead Vaxmobile will make a stop at the Five Towns Community Center, at 270 Lawrence Ave. in Lawrence, on May 25, from 3 to 6 p.m., to inoculate those 12 and older.
“We’re super-excited, staying focused on ensuring access to all in our community,” said Sasha Young, the center’s food pantry director and youth services coordinator. No signup is necessary to get vaccinated; the shots are first come, first served.
As a complete reopening and a return to normal life becomes more of a reality, public school districts in the Five Towns are restrained in their approaches.
“The district eagerly awaits guidance from the state regarding the 2021-2022 school year,” Hewlett-Woodmere Superintendent Dr. Ralph Marino Jr. wrote in an email. “Once the guidance is shared with us, the district will work collaboratively to plan for the new year.”
Lawrence Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said that a requirement to wear masks remains in effect as the district aims to hold a “safe in-person high school graduation” and moving-up ceremonies. “We are hopeful that full reopening can take place,” Pedersen said. “Vaccines are a way to best ensure one another’s safety, but families will have to make those decisions. They are not being mandated as yet for school entry.”
For more information on the vaccinations being given by the Vaxmobile at the Community Center, email firstname.lastname@example.org.