Laura Parker Russo, a 54-year-old public-school science teacher in Nassau County, N.Y., was arrested after being accused of giving a minor a Covid-19 vaccine without parental consent. She has since been removed from the classroom and is scheduled to appear in criminal court on Jan. 21.
According to a news release from the Nassau County police, on New Year’s Eve a 17-year-old was at Ms. Russo’s house in Sea Cliff, on Long Island, and she gave him a dose of what appeared to be a Covid vaccine. He later went home and told his mother, the release said, and the mother said she did not authorize the vaccination. She called the police, who then arrested Ms. Russo.
The police did not say how she obtained the vial.
Ms. Russo is not authorized to administer vaccines, the police said. She is a teacher at Herricks High School in New Hyde Park, according to a biography on the school’s website. She has since been reassigned, Fino M. Celano, the superintendent of Herricks Public Schools, said in a statement.
Ms. Russo did not respond immediately to an email sent by The New York Times.
The majority of states, including New York, require parental consent for Covid vaccinations. Some parents have prevented their children from getting inoculated because of concerns about possible side effects and general anxiety about the newness of the shots.
Scientists say the vaccines are safe for children, and they urge vaccinating them because children are able not only to contract the virus and spread it, but can also experience serious illness. The spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant has led to an increase in pediatric hospitalizations.
And because broad immunity cannot be reached unless minors are vaccinated, federal and state officials hope that more parents will vaccinate their children, especially as many students return to school.
Coronavirus cases have increased 301 percent in Nassau County in the past two weeks, according to The New York Times’s tracker. Hospitalizations have risen 47 percent in Nassau County in the past two weeks.
Seventy-six percent of residents in Nassau County are vaccinated, according to The Times’s tracker. Roughly 72 percent of 12- to 17-year olds in the county are fully vaccinated, according to state data.
There is no statewide Covid vaccine mandate for schoolchildren in New York. But some private schools require vaccination, and New York City requires it for certain sports and extracurricular activities.
In September, Los Angeles became the first school district to mandate vaccines for children 12 and older, with a plan to require vaccination by Jan. 10, but those plans have since been delayed. The Washington, D.C., Council voted to mandate vaccines for students 16 and older starting March 1.
“This is a major source of tension between what is important for public health and what is important in terms of individual liberties and parental autonomy,” said Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.
Schools require other vaccines for enrollment, like vaccination against measles.
“That’s the big question: Does Covid-19 fall into the same category as some of these other vaccine preventable diseases that we do require for school entry or does it not?” Dr. Nash said.