By Joseph De Avila 

New York could begin administering the Covid-19 vaccine to children aged 12 to 15 as soon as this Thursday after federal health regulators gave the green light to inoculate adolescents, state officials said.

The Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE had previously been approved for people aged 16 and up. The Food and Drug Administration on Monday cleared that vaccine to be used for children as young as 12.

A New York state panel will make a final recommendation for vaccinating young people following a separate review by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. If approved as expected, 12- to 15-year-olds could begin receiving the vaccine later this week, he said.

"The Covid-19 vaccine is our best weapon to defeat the virus, and we're taking all the appropriate precautions to ensure the safety and effectiveness of our vaccine program," said Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat.

Over 16.9 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to date in New York. Nearly 50% of the state's population age 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.

Health experts say children will also need to be vaccinated to help end the pandemic. Opening up vaccines to children as young as 12 could also help efforts by school districts to reopen classrooms full-time to middle- and high-school students.

The Biden administration has said it won't require schools to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for students. In New York, the state Legislature would have to pass a law to implement such a mandate, Mr. Cuomo said.

New York lawmakers would only be able to consider legislation mandating Covid-19 vaccines, which have only been approved on an emergency basis, after the U.S. FDA gives the vaccine full approval, Mr. Cuomo said. That process could take several months, he said.

"If there was a federal approval, it is going to be a legitimate topic of discussion," Mr. Cuomo said Tuesday at a news conference.

The pending approval for vaccinations for people as young as 12 comes as Covid-19 cases continue to fall. New York's statewide seven-day average positivity rate dipped to 1.34% on Monday, the lowest figure since late October and the 36th straight day of decline.

Covid-19 hospitalizations also continue to fall. There were 2,026 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in New York as of Monday, a 21% drop from the previous week.

Write to Joseph De Avila at joseph.deavila@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 11, 2021 17:45 ET (21:45 GMT)

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