NEW YORK (AP) – New Yorkers age 16 and older can sign up for COVID-19 vaccines starting Tuesday, a huge expansion in eligibility as the state seeks to vaccinate as many people as possible.
The State University of New York also announced plans to offer vaccines to tens of thousands of college students before they return home for the summer.
Governor Andrew Cuomo extended eligibility to 30 years or older last week and announced that people ages 16-29 would be eligible beginning April 6.
Adolescents 16 and 17 years old will be limited to receiving the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as it is the only vaccine that has been licensed for use by persons under 18 years of age. Parental consent will be required for the 16 and 17 year old vaccinations. -on state-run sites, with certain exceptions that include teens who are married or parents.
None of the available vaccines have yet been approved for people under the age of 16.
New York State health officials hope that increased eligibility will help reduce COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, particularly among millennials and Generation X.
The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients dropped to 4,400 in New York, down from 8,600 in early January.
But since mid-March, the number of new COVID-19 cases has risen and hospitalizations have stalled. And more young people with COVID-19 are now landing in New York hospitals, according to state Department of Health data provided to The Associated Press: 1,146 COVID-19 patients as of Sunday were between the ages of 20 and 54, compared to 986. – an increase of 16% – at the beginning of March.
About half of the COVID-19 patients in New York hospitals are under 65, a contrast to January and February, when that age group accounted for a third of patients. New Yorkers between the ages of 20 to 44 make up 13% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state, up from 7% in early January.
SUNY students will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which because it requires only one dose will allow them to be fully vaccinated by the end of the semester in early May.
Although some private universities, including Rutgers University and Cornell University, have announced that they will require COVID-19 vaccinations for students returning in the fall, SUNY has not yet said whether vaccinations will be mandatory.
Chancellor Jim Malatras said the public university system has secured its first shipment of vaccines and is working with the state to reserve additional doses for students. Approximately 18,600 vaccines were distributed on 34 campuses on Tuesday.
More than 350,000 students were receiving emails urging them to make an appointment, according to SUNY.
About one in five New York State residents was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just over a third of the state’s residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The new vaccination rules add 1.7 million people to the list of eligible New Yorkers, for a total of 15.9 million people, state Department of Health officials said.
Malatras said the campus vaccine distribution plan has been in the works for months.
“Giving residential students the one-time option helps overcome a crucial logistical hurdle in the career so that people are fully vaccinated before they leave campus and return to their home communities,” he said.