WASHINGTON D.C.: As the rate of Covid infections continues to decline in the United States, regulators have approved the use of the Pfizer vaccination for children ages 12 and up.
The vaccinations will become available for this age group this week.
Officials believe this is a major step in returning all children to schools.
In a statement released on May 11, U.S. President Joe Biden called the authorization, "a promising development in our fight against the virus."
"If you are a parent who wants to protect your child, or a teenager who is interested in getting vaccinated, today's decision is a step closer to that goal," he added.
The Pfizer vaccine had earlier become available for teens 16 years and older.
While most children contracting the Covid infection display mild or no symptoms, there remains a risk of children becoming seriously ill. Also, outbreaks of infections have been traced to young people's school sports events and other gatherings.
"I hear from pediatricians and people out in the community, what a godsend this is going to be for the adolescent population who have been restricted, in terms of sports activities, drama clubs and the other sorts of things that naturally we want them to engage in," said Dr. William Gruber, a scientist at Pfizer.
Officials have warned that parents might hesitate allowing their children to be vaccinated, fearing unknown side effects. Parents also might question the risks versus benefits, since Covid infections pose a minimal threat to the vast majority of children.
In a trial of 2,260 adolescents aged 12 to 15, there were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the group who received a placebo and none among those who received the vaccine, resulting in 100 percent efficacy in preventing the illness, company officials report.
Some 46 percent of the population in the United States has received at least one shot of the Covid vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, the number of people receiving shots has fallen from a seven-day average of more than 3.3 million doses per day in mid-April to 2.1 million shots a day as of May 4.