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Pfizer's Coronavirus Vaccine Could Be Game-Changer For Student-Athletes

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pfizer announced Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine was 100 percent effective in a new study of 12- to 15-year-olds.

No cases were found among those who got the vaccine. Currently, it's only authorized for anyone over 16 years old.

For athletes, masks have become a way of life. There's the constant cloud over their heads of possible game cancellations because of outbreaks. If the vaccine is authorized for younger people, it could be a game-changer.

Becca Ryan is a freshman at Gateway High School who plays soccer, basketball and softball. The coronavirus has made for a challenging first year of school and athletics.

"The mask sometimes gets a little bit hard to play with," Ryan said over Zoom.

She feels it's hard to get into the flow of a season when, at any moment, COVID-19 could change everything.

"You try and get used to it. Then there would be another shutdown. Hard to get into a groove," Ryan said.

With the Pfizer news, she would be able to get the vaccine if it's authorized, allowing her and her teammates to be protected.

"The vaccination clearly is another really strong way, maybe the strongest of all, to ensure the kids' safety," Gateway Athletic Director Don Holl said. "It would be something we would strongly encourage so we could have as many athletes as possible vaccinated."

Allegheny Health Network Chair of Pediatrics Dr. Joseph Aracri said Pfizer's results weren't too surprising, based on its effectiveness with adults.

"If a vaccine gives adults a good immune response, we know that the kids are going to reactive pretty positively," Dr. Aracri said.

As for a timeline on when we could see shots in the arms, Dr. Aracri isn't too sure when. He hopes it could be before classes begin next school year.

"It may be you start the fall with masks and maybe basketball is without masks. It's very difficult to predict because it's a new virus," Dr. Aracri said over Zoom.

With Ryan playing a sport in every season, she'd like to see those shots sooner rather than later.

"It would make it more normal playing against teams without having to worry about catching the virus," Ryan said.

In speaking with the WPIAL, KDKA was told any encouragement for students to get the vaccine would have to come from parents and individuals schools. Schools said because of privacy laws, they may be limited to just encouragement and nothing mandatory.

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