ALBANY, N.Y. — Following Monday's news that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for young people ages 12 to 15, the state is currently reviewing the data and hopes to begin vaccinations beginning Thursday.
"As we have with the authorization of each COVID-19 vaccine and subsequent changes, we will use science and data to determine the safest path forward for New Yorkers," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a released statement. "Tomorrow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine advisory committee, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), will meet publicly to review data and discuss whether to recommend the vaccine for this age group to the CDC director. Following that review, Dr. Howard Zucker will meet with our Clinical Advisory Task Force and make a final recommendation, which means we could have full authorization for vaccinations to begin for 12 to 15 year olds here in New York as early as Thursday."
A CDC advisory panel must still sign off on the approval and that could come on Wednesday.
Dr. Nancy Nielsen, who is an Associate Dean at the Jacobs School of Medicine and a lead planner for vaccine distribution, puts it this way, "For middle school and high school kids this is a godsend."
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein is actually a pediatrician by specialty and is planning the county's usage program with this vaccine development.
"We will - definitely for our clinics that offer Pfizer vaccine - include kids that are 12 and up who are able to be vaccinated," Dr. Burstein said.
Dr. Burstein says private practice pediatricians and some school districts are also being looped into the vaccine distribution network. And there was a somewhat different tone from the county, which up until now held a strict line on total school re-openings and youth sports.
"This is again the way that we're gonna open up schools," Dr. Burstein said. "So you know parents can help us get schools back open and sports back going again. Hopefully if everybody is vaccinated we don't have to quarantine anybody on the team. Everybody will be able to play as much as possible."
Dr. Nielsen concurs saying, "We'll have fewer cases and that will bring the rate down so schools will be able to reopen. The other thing is if the kids are vaccinated you know we won't be using masks and we won't necessarily have to have them six feet apart. So it will make it much easier for the schools to transport the kids on buses. Right now that is a real problem. So vaccination is the absolute key to getting kids back in school."