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Top WNY doctors give second opinions on FDA authorized Pfizer use for 12-15 year olds

"Absolute key to getting kids back in schools."

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With the FDA granting emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 to 15 years of age, two health care leaders here in Western New York gave their perspectives to 2 On Your Side. 

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."

That comment as local governments and pharmacies gear up to go down in age for the Pfizer shots.

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," Burstein said.

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," 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."

Technically a CDC advisory panel must still sign off Wednesday, but Nielsen feels that will be just a formality. Still she voices this bit of caution with the state leaders. "They never let anybody else tell them what to do so they always have to make their own decisions. So we'll see if New York allows pharmacies, which are gonna get a lot of this vaccine from the feds, will let them immunize kids that young."

Nielsen says State Health Commissioner Dr, Howard Zucker is scheduled to hold a webinar with pediatricians around the state sometime this week. 

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