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Vaccinating teens is a sure path to normalcy

Molloy College nursing student Cassidy Hansen, 20, vaccinates

Molloy College nursing student Cassidy Hansen, 20, vaccinates fellow student Nicolle Lopez, 18, of Lynbrook, during a vaccination event at the Rockville Centre school on April 29. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Our kids are athletes, actors, activists and scholars. They thrive on social interaction, on the times they spend with one another in and out of the classroom and on the activities they love.

It's time to give them their lives back.

If everything falls into place, with teachers, staff and students innoculated, we soon could get closer to having our students in school, perhaps even with no masks, plexiglass barriers and social distancing restrictions.

By Thursday, New York likely will open up its vaccination eligibilty for 12-15 year olds, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration already has approved Pfizer for tweens and teens, and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and New York's task force likely will give their okay Wednesday.

This is a critical step toward recovery, herd immunity and normalcy, all words that describe the pandemic's end we so crave. It'll be up to the parents of those adolescents to listen to the science, understand the facts and get their children vaccinated.

Arguments are being made that it's less important for them to get vaccinated because fewer young people get very sick from COVID-19. That's just not true. Some teenagers have become very ill from the virus - and hundreds of those 17 and younger have died. But an even more significant concern is how easily teens with no apparent symptoms can be responsible for spreading the virus. The only way to stop the spread is with more shots in young arms. It protects those who are immunocompromised or unable to get the shot. And it protects younger children still ineligible.

To get our teens the shot, we need parents and doctors on board. This would be a good time for state officials to provide more vaccine doses to physicians themselves, particularly the pediatricians whom parents often trust most.

The expected expansion of eligibility to nearly 17 million teens and tweens nationwide, about 5% of the population, comes along with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's announcement Monday that the vaccine could be required for all students attending New York's public colleges and universities in person this fall. That's a welcome potential requirement that should keep our campuses safely open. It comes alongside a pending bill in the State Legislature that would require the COVID-19 vaccine - pending full FDA approval - for all students attending college in New York. They're already required to get the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, so this isn't new. A religious exemption for college students remains in place.

There are so many good signs right now, from the resumption of high school sports to the announcement of the coming hockey playoffs at Nassau Coliseum, complete with higher capacity and special sections for vaccinated fans. It'll be important for the state to iron out the ongoing kinks with its vaccine passport, known as the Excelsior Pass, and make it widely accessible.

Kids often dread getting a shot. This will be one they - and their parents - can celebrate.