Pfizer’s vaccine decision brings hope of ‘normal’ high school year, former FDA chief says

The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to approve the COVID-19 vaccine from PfizerBioNTech for people as young as 12 means high school students could see a normal session this fall, a former acting FDA chief said Tuesday.

“I think this could be huge. It brings me joy, it brings me hope,” Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told NBC’s “Today Show.” “Hope that for so many kids that are in high school, this fall could feel like a normal high school year.”

Dr. Besser said even though kids haven’t been hit hard by COVID-19 compared to older adults, there are hundreds who did die, and thousands more suffered from an inflammatory syndrome linked to the coronavirus.

“The mental health impact on kids in terms of stress and anxiety has been enormous and this could work to tackle that,” Dr. Besser said.

It’s unclear how many parents will bring their kids forward to get the two-dose vaccine as they hit pediatricians’ offices in the coming days.

The doctor stressed the social benefits of getting protected from the virus, so they don’t have to worry about contracting it or spreading it as they get back to normal life, socialize with friends and enjoy sports activities.

“If people are fully vaccinated, they can be together without masks on. That’s a very safe thing,” he said.

Dr. Besser said it will be up to each state to decide whether to require the vaccine ahead of the school year. He said he expects a robust debate around that in states and school districts, given the political divide around the COVID-19 response generally.

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