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FDA greenlights Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15

New York became the latest state to require students at publicly funded colleges be vaccinated for the fall term — a move that comes as overall, new infections in the U.S. have fallen to their lowest since last September. Vaccine manufacturer Pfizer announced Monday that it had received FDA approval to vaccinate children 12 to 15 years old. William Brangham has the latest COVID news.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Pfizer's COVID-19 has won approval for use in children 12 to 15 years old. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the emergency measure late today. The minimum age for the vaccine had been 16.

    Meanwhile, New York state became the latest to mandate that students at publicly funded colleges be vaccinated for the fall term.

    Governor Andrew Cuomo announced it.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

    If you must have a vaccine, get it now, if you have to get it anyway. I also encourage private schools to do the same thing. Let's make a global statement: You cannot go back to school in person in September unless you have a vaccine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Overall, new infections in the United States have fallen to their lowest since last September, even as vaccinations have stalled.

    And the World Health Organization reported today that global infections have plateaued, despite huge numbers in India and Brazil.

    Here with more on the move to open up the Pfizer vaccine to adolescents in the U.S., our William Brangham.

    So, William, you have been following this story very closely. Remind us why this is an important announcement.

  • William Brangham:

    That's right, Judy.

    This has been something that a lot of parents and pediatricians have been eagerly awaiting. The reason is, is that vaccinating kids is an important part, an important step for us to really tamping down this pandemic.

    As you were just reporting, cases in the U.S. have really fallen, but getting kids vaccinated is going to be important if we want to open schools fully in the fall. It's also, given that there are these new variants that are more contagious, and some of them make us sicker, plus there is this reluctant group of adults in the U.S. who are still resistant to getting it, we need as many Americans to be vaccinated as possible.

    And this move now opens up millions of more Americans who could be eligible for the vaccine very soon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, William, 12-to-15-year-olds, what do we know about exactly who is going to get it then?

  • William Brangham:

    That's right.

    This will be a determination of the parents of these kids. And there have been a few polls about this. The most recent one was last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And it found that 30 percent of adults that Kaiser polled said, yes, they would vaccinate their children as soon as possible.

    A quarter of those parents said, well, we're going to have more of a wait-and-see approach to see how the vaccines are doing; 18 percent said they would do it only if their school required their kids to have the vaccine. But 23 percent of those adults polled said they would definitely not do it.

    So there's a — there's still a slice of the population that doesn't want this for their children. And, not surprisingly, these results sort of track with the adults' opinions about vaccines.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, William, we know the argument had been made by some that we should hold off on vaccinating this younger age group, because, frankly, there are a lot of adults around the rest of the world who are more susceptible, and they need the vaccine too.

  • William Brangham:

    That's right.

    I mean, there is a jarring contrast that we have to wrestle with here, which is, we are now talking about vaccinating the people who are at the lowest possible risk, healthy kids in the United States, to COVID-19, while, at the same time, as you're saying, India and Brazil and nations around the world are on fire and cannot vaccinate their elderly, their health care workers.

    And so it's something we have to wrestle with. There are — certainly an ethical question involved there, that we are giving vaccines to this low-risk group, while others elsewhere desperately need it.

    But, barring any current change in policy, that's what's going to be happening here in the U.S. pretty soon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    William Brangham following this story that has just broken very late today.

    Thank you, William.

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