New Yorkers 16 and over now eligible for COVID vaccine

New Yorkers over 16 years old can sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Tuesday, a major expansion of eligibility as the state seeks to immunize as many people as possible.

Teens aged 16 and 17 will be limited to receiving the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because that is the only vaccine authorized for use in people under 18. Parental consent will be required for vaccinations of 16- and 17-year-olds at state-run sites, with certain exceptions including for teens who are married or are parents.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded eligibility to 30 and older last week and announced that people aged 16 to 29 would be eligible starting April 6.

Paul Navarro, 17, of Hempstead, has been waiting all year for the shot.

"I have spina bifida, club feet. I have hydrocephalus and all of that can be bad with COVID," Navarro said. "It can lead to being very ill, even death."

Navarro has had more than 70 different surgeries in his lifetime and refuses to let COVID-19 be the virus that brings him down. He and other teens at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park were among the first teens in the state to get the Pfizer vaccine.

Briana Justice, 16, of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, has been battling sickle cell anemia. She said she feels like a weight has now been lifted off her shoulders with this first shot in her arm.

"It felt like a rush, I was very nervous to get the vaccine," she said. "I had my concerns at first but now that my first dose is over with, I feel like I finally have protection against the virus."

Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a briefing from City Hall on Tuesday that New York City was on track to fully vaccinate 5 million people by June. But he warned about supply shortages.

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"It will make things simpler in many ways and obviously we want to see everyone get vaccinated," de Blasio said. "The more supply we see, the easier it will be, so we still need to keep pushing this to the federal government, the manufacturers, the state, we still need supply, supply, supply."

None of the available vaccines have yet been approved for people under 16.

The State University of New York also announced plans to offer vaccines to tens of thousands of college students before they head home for the summer.

SUNY students will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it requires only one dose and will allow them to be fully vaccinated by the time they finish the semester in early May.

Although some colleges, including Rutgers University and Cornell University, have announced they will require COVID-19 vaccinations for students returning in the fall, SUNY has not yet said whether the vaccinations will be mandatory.

Chancellor Jim Malatras said the public college system has secured its first shipment of vaccines and is working with the state to reserve additional doses for students. About 18,600 vaccines were being distributed to 34 campuses Tuesday.

More than 350,000 students were receiving email messages urging them to make an appointment, according to SUNY.

About one in five New York state residents were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A little more than one-third of the state's residents had received at least one vaccine dose.

With The Associated Press