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FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 file photo, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del., to announce President-elect Joe Biden’s health care team. Walensky, 51, an infectious-diseases specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, is expected to become CDC director after Biden is inaugurated. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 file photo, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del., to announce President-elect Joe Biden’s health care team. Walensky, 51, an infectious-diseases specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, is expected to become CDC director after Biden is inaugurated. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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BOSTON – Massachusetts is poised to enter a new phase of its COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel on Wednesday voted to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in youth age 12 to 15, and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an statement later in the day that she had adopted the recommendation.

“CDC now recommends that this vaccine be used among this population, and providers may begin vaccinating them right away,” Walensky said.

Speaking before the recommendation and its adoption, Gov. Charlie Baker said the roughly 400,000 people in that 12-15 age group in Massachusetts could begin booking appointments or getting the shot on a walk-up basis as soon as Thursday, pending CDC approval.

From a Moderna Therapeutics lab in Norwood, Baker said primary care providers and pediatricians are likely to play a big role in vaccinating teens and pre-teens. Moderna Therapeutics CEO Stephane Bancel said his company could be “weeks away” from an emergency use authorization that would extend its vaccine usage to younger teens. The Moderna vaccine is currently only administered to adults 18 and older.

After reporting no new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, the Department of Public Health on Wednesday added 13 more fatalities to the state’s cumulative total, which stands at 17,357, or 17,712 with unconfirmed but likely cases added in.

The DPH also reported 626 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, from 76,716 tests. There were 428 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, and the seven-day positive test rate averaged out to 1.25 percent.

Also Wednesday, the Baker administration announced another expansion of the state’s free “Stop the Spread” COVID-19 test sites, which will now remain operating through Sept. 30.

The free sites, which are open to all Massachusetts residents, first launched in July 2020 and COVID-19 command center officials said more than 2.3 million tests had been conducted there as of March 3, 2021. T

Testing has slowed as more people become vaccinated against the coronavirus, and Gov. Charlie Baker suggested earlier this month that an expansion of the free testing initiative was possible.

“As more and more people get vaccinated, fewer and fewer people are as concerned about getting tested as they might have been before,” he said on May 6. “Testing remains critically important and we’ve made decisions to maintain a lot of our free testing sites and our free testing partners here in Massachusetts at least throughout the month of June and into July, and we’ll see where we are at that point in time.”