A federal health advisory committee endorsed use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children as young as 12 on Wednesday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly accepted the recommendation. New York State's vaccine advisory panel late Wednesday authorized its use in children ages 12-15.
In a statement, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he will authorize "all providers enrolled in the NYS COVID-19 vaccination program to expand eligibility for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to" children in the age group, effective immediately.
Dr. Henry Bernstein, a member of the CDC's advisory committee and a professor of pediatrics at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell said: "It’s incredibly important to be able to vaccinate children 12 to 15 years old against SARS-CoV-2 or coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19. We know that millions of kids under 18-years-old have been infected, thousands have been hospitalized, almost 4,000 have developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children [which is linked to COVID-19] and hundreds have died."
In addition, he said, children can spread the virus to vulnerable family members and throughout their communities.
Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine has been used for months in people 16 and older, and earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration cleared its use for those as young as 12. But before rolling it out to the younger people, New York and many other states were awaiting recommendations from CDC's advisers — and the panel concluded the same dose adults use is safe and strongly protective in those 12 to 15 years old.
CVS announced Wednesday that it would begin administering the vaccine to children 12 to 15 starting Thursday, including at more than 365 pharmacies in New York.
Bernstein said vaccinating children is a move "toward making life normal for kids and families. It’s been a struggle for all of us, and especially for children, and here’s a way for them to feel more comfortable, and hopefully to get back to camps, and back to school in person."
Bernstein, an attending physician at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, said he regularly talks with parents to correct misinformation about vaccines they read online, to point them to reliable websites such as the CDC's, and to relay to them the "remarkable safety profile" of the vaccine.
Also on Wednesday, the CDC said it is OK for people of any age to get a coronavirus shot at the same time as other needed vaccinations.
The CDC until Wednesday had recommended not getting other vaccinations within two weeks of a COVID-19 shot, mostly as a precaution so that safety monitors could spot if any unexpected side effects cropped up.
But the CDC said Wednesday it is changing that advice because the COVID-19 vaccines have proved very safe — and that health workers can decide to give another needed vaccine at the same time for people of any age.
"The need for catch-up vaccination in coordination with COVID-19 vaccination is urgent as we plan for safe return to school," CDC's Dr. Kate Woodworth told the agency's advisory panel, citing millions of missed doses of vaccines against tetanus, whooping cough and other health threats.