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The FDA on Monday granted long-awaited emergency use authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccine in teenagers aged 12 to 15.

The decision to okay the use of the Pfizer vaccine in teens and adolescents makes an estimated 17 million more Americans eligible to be vaccinated. Thus far, 58% of US adults have had at least one dose of a vaccine and 34.8% of all Americans are fully vaccinated.

In late March, Pfizer released results from a study that showed the vaccine proved 100% effective against COVID-19 among more than 200 adolescent volunteers.

American Academy of Pediatrics President Lee Savio Beers, MD, praised the agency’s decision, calling it a “critically important step in bringing lifesaving vaccines to children and adolescents. Our youngest generations have shouldered heavy burdens over the past year, and the vaccine is a hopeful sign that they will be able to begin to experience all the activities that are so important for their health and development.

“We look forward to the discussion by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the CDC, which will make recommendations about the use of this vaccine in adolescents. Meanwhile, pediatricians stand ready to assist in efforts to administer this and other COVID-19 vaccines.

“It’s essential for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19. According to data compiled by the AAP and Children’s Hospital Association, more than 3.8 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States since the start of the pandemic. While fewer children than adults have suffered the most severe disease, this is not a benign disease in children. Thousands of children have been hospitalized, and hundreds have died. We will soon have a very safe, highly effective vaccine that can prevent so much suffering. I encourage parents to talk with their pediatrician about how to get the vaccine for their adolescents as soon as they are eligible.”

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