ALBANY – Assuming the federal government gives final approval to the two-shot Pfizer vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15 on Wednesday, it could be available in New York state on Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.
The Federal Drug Administration has recommended expanding access to the Pfizer vaccine — though not other vaccines — and a Centers for Disease Control committee will consider granting approval on Wednesday, allowing parents to pursue vaccinations for their adolescent children.
On Tuesday, Cuomo said that the state Health Department’s clinical advisory task force will make its own recommendation after the federal approval is given, but the decision should come quickly and the Pfizer vaccine could be available to that age group on Thursday. Of the three vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States, Pfizer is the first to be approved for early adolescents.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is our best weapon to defeat this virus, and we’re taking all the appropriate precautions to ensure the safety and effectiveness of our vaccine program,” the governor said.
But giving the vaccine to minors will be subject to parental approval. Cuomo said the state’s primary focus will remain on getting late-adolescents and young adults vaccinated — with federal support, free Uber and Lyft rides will be available for those who need a ride.
“Sixteen to 40 is really where we are making our greatest effort,” Cuomo said while answering questions at a ribbon-cutting for a $1.5 billion expansion of the Javits Center convention space in Manhattan.
The news on vaccine eligibility comes as the state and Capital Region have continued to see the number of COVID cases drop, and vaccine appointments that three months ago were booked up for weeks in advance now go unfilled, and pharmacies and other distribution sights offering on-demand vaccinations.
Overall, 60.4 percent of all New Yorkers over age 18 have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 49.4 percent have completed their vaccinations, Cuomo said. White people are more likely to be vaccinated than members of minority groups, and women more likely than men, state statistics show.
The statewide test positivity rate was 1.34% — the lowest since last Oct. 24, according to Cuomo.
Still, there are troubling signs that the pandemic hasn’t finished claiming its human toll, and that elderly people aren’t the only victims.
Schenectady County on Monday reported that two men, one in his 60s and the other in his 70s, had died of COVID. Total COVID deaths in the county since March 2020 are now 155. On Tuesday, Albany County reported an additional death, of a woman in her 50s. Of 32 deaths statewide, it was the only one in the Capital Region.
“Tragically, COVID continues to take lives and devastate families, and there are still seven county residents below the age of 50 hospitalized from the virus,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy.
The number of COVID cases nationally has also plunged dramatically since mid-winter. The CDC on Tuesday reported 24,000 new cases and 280 deaths, both down 90 percent from the worst point of last winter’s surge.
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