FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday gave the green light for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to be used in adolescents 12-15 years old, a move that will make millions more people eligible for a vaccine.

The highly anticipated decision is a key step toward ensuring middle and high schools can operate for full in-person learning next fall — and a major boon to parents concerned about the safety of summer activities.

FDA has been reviewing the amended application from Pfizer and BioNTech for more than a month. The companies cited research from their clinical trial in late March that found the vaccine was effective in the younger population, and produced strong antibody responses. The side effects were also about the same as the older population.

Following the announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine advisory committee will meet Wednesday to review the data and vote on recommendations for use of the shot in adolescents.

Pfizer’s vaccine is currently authorized for teenagers aged 16 and older. The other two vaccines on the market in the U.S., from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are only authorized for adults.

Kids matter: Children need to be vaccinated in order to raise the overall level of immunity in the country. While herd immunity may not be within reach, getting more people vaccinated will lower the numbers of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

“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,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

The challenge: Officials need to convince adults to get themselves vaccinated before they’ll vaccinate their kids. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed limited eagerness from parents to get their children vaccinated, and that parents’ views on inoculating their children lined up with whether they planned to get vaccinated themselves.