NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The latest surge in COVID-19 cases is adding momentum to the push to vaccinate all New Yorkers over the age of 5.

The brief fright of the needle was tempered by the immediate delight of getting a reward — toys for all the young New Yorkers getting vaccinated at Somos Community Care in Manhattanville on Thursday.

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“I wanted to get it because I didn’t want to get corona and then pass,” 7-year-old Isa Hernandez told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.

It has been three weeks since the Omicron variant suddenly began dominating the coronavirus conversation. In that period, COVID hospitalizations in New York City have more than doubled — from 463 to 932.

It’s troubling, but still far short of the 12,000 hospitalizations at the height of the pandemic in April 2020.

The last time the city had 900 hospitalizations was in May of this year, with 240 people in intensive care.

COVID VACCINE

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On Thursday, with roughly the same number hospitalized, there are 35% fewer people in the ICU. That may indicate Omicron is not as virulent and that vaccines are protecting people from severe illness.

Doctors who run vaccine clinics have been reporting strong interest in booster shots.

“It has increased tremendously. Everyone that got vaccinated, they’re getting their boosters. The fact that Omicron is a new variant, this booster can help with it and they don’t want to continue to spread the disease,” said Somos’ Dr. Luisa Perez.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Advocates worry those reluctant to get vaccinated will pay a price with an increase in gatherings this time of year and the multi-generations in many immigrant families.

“We know that our families are unique. They live with grandpa, uncle, aunt, mom, dad, and these families are vulnerable. So we need to protect our children and our families,” Dr. Vanessa Baracaldo said.

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She said vaccination is the key to controlling Omicron.

Tony Aiello