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Solving COVID

CDC green-lights Pfizer vaccine for immediate use among kids 12 to 15

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off Wednesday on administering Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 12 to 15, paving the way for vaccinations in this younger cohort to begin as soon as Thursday. President Biden hailed the move "as one more giant step in our fight against the pandemic." The "bottom line" is that the vaccine is "safe, effective, easy, fast, and free" for 12- to 15-year-olds, he said. "So my hope is that parents will take advantage of the vaccine and get their kids vaccinated."

Some states have already lined up vaccination drives for Thursday and Friday in anticipation of the decision, and Biden said 15,000 pharmacies are ready to start vaccinating adolescents as early as Thursday. He said children will be able to get their second Pfizer-BioNTech shot in a different location if they move around in the summer. Vaccinating kids and teens 12 and older is seen as a critical part of the effort to tame the pandemic and get schools fully reopened next fall. The U.S. has about 17 million adolescents age 12 to 15, representing 5.3 percent of the population, the Kaiser Family Foundation says.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky gave the final green light hours after the CDC's independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 14-0, with one recusal, to endorse the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15. The Food and Drug Administration had authorized emergency use of the vaccine in that age group on Monday.

Pfizer studied its vaccine in more than 2,200 kids age 12 to 15, and there were zero cases in the half that got the vaccine, versus 16 in the placebo group. Side effects were similar to what adults experience, but the children developed higher antibody levels than adults. At least 127 adolescents have died from COVID-19 this year, and as more adults get vaccinated, the 12-15 age group's share of infections has risen, hitting 9 percent of all cases in April, the CDC says.