By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The FDA on Monday expanded the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to add Americans age 12 to 15 years to the list of eligible recipients. On Wednesday, the CDC formally recommended these adolescents receive the vaccine.

The CDC estimates the expanded EUA allows about 17 million more Americans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, on top of the more than 100 million Americans who have been vaccinated so far. Between March 2020 and April 2021, the agency says there were 1.7 million reported cases of COVID-19 among young people age 11 to 17 years. Data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association indicate there have been 3.85 million such cases since the pandemic started through May 6, 2021.

Adolescents generally experience a less severe disease course than adults, although there have been reports of severe illness and even death among these patients. Nevertheless, officials urged these newly eligible Americans to take the vaccine as soon as possible.

“For vaccination to do its job, we must do our critical part. That means vaccinating as many people as possible who are eligible,” the CDC said in a statement. “Getting adolescents vaccinated means their faster return to social activities and can provide parents and caregivers peace of mind knowing their family is protected.”

“Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, added in her own statement.

AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP, called the FDA’s EUA expansion “a critically important step” and vaccinating children against the virus “essential.”

While fewer children than adults have suffered the most severe disease, this is not a benign disease in children,” he said. “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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