Federal health officials authorized emergency use of a two-shot COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds on Monday, opening eligibility to nearly 17 million school-age kids.
The Pfizer-BioNTech shot is given in two doses spaced 21 days apart. In March, Pfizer reported that the shots were 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 after full vaccination, two weeks after the last shot, in younger teens.
“The FDA’s expansion of the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age is a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement announcing the change. “Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic."
A CDC vaccine advisory panel is scheduled to vote Wednesday afternoon on the distribution of the shots. The White House announced last week that it was getting ready for pediatricians and pharmacies to administer the Pfizer shots to younger teens. In December, the vaccine was authorized for those 16 and older.
"We're pretty excited because so many parents have come up to us to ask, 'Can I get my children vaccinated since I'm here?' and because of the need for FDA authorization we couldn't do that," Rina Shah, vice president of pharmacy operations at Walgreens, told BuzzFeed News. "We are getting everything teed up and ready to go now."
Pfizer last week also requested full FDA approval of its shots, which would move them from emergency status to fully licensed status, after more than 170 million doses have been safely delivered. Approval would apply to people 16 and older and allow schools and the military to require the shots, instead of keeping their administration strictly voluntary.