U.S. regulators have authorized Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12, widening the country’s inoculation program as vaccination rates have slowed significantly.
“Today is an important day as the FDA announced the expansion of the emergency use authorization os for the Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, for the prevention of COVID-19 to include adolescents down to 12 years of age,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said.
The vaccine has been available under an emergency use authorization (EUA) to people as young as 16 in the United States. The vaccine makers said they had started the process for full approval for those ages last week.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was amending the EUA to include the millions of children aged 12 to 15.
It is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be authorized in the United States for this age group, seen as an important step for getting children back into schools safely. U.S. President Joe Biden has asked states to make the vaccine available to the younger adolescents immediately.
Most children with COVID-19 only develop mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, children are not without risk of becoming seriously ill, and they can still spread the virus. There have been outbreaks traced to sporting events and other activities for children in this age range.
Vaccines are crucial to ending the pandemic. But many health officials are concerned vaccine hesitancy in some adults will be even more pronounced when it comes to their children.