U.S. regulators on Monday okayed the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12,  before they head back to school in the fall paving the way for them to return to more normal activities.

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Shots could begin as soon as a federal vaccine advisory committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds according to a story aired on WIVB-TV.  An announcement could come as early as Wednesday.

“This is a watershed moment in our ability to fight back the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president who’s also a pediatrician, told The Associated Press.

The Food and Drug Administration declared that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15 with according to the study no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents.  Kids developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults.

The younger teens were administered the same vaccine dosage as adults and had the same side effects, mostly sore arms and flu-like fever, chills or aches indicating according to experts a revved-up immune system, especially after the second dose.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The latest news is welcome for U.S. families struggling to decide what activities are safe to resume when the youngest family members remain unvaccinated.

Moderna recently said preliminary results from its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects for their vaccine as well. Another U.S. company, Novavax, has a COVID-19 vaccine in late-stage development and just began a study in 12- to 17-year-olds.

Testing whether the vaccine works for even younger children would be the next step in the process. Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun U.S. studies in children ages 6 months to 11 years. Those studies explore whether babies, preschoolers and elementary-age kids will need different doses than teens and adults with first results in expected this fall.

Children are far less likely than adults to get seriously ill from COVID-19, yet they represent nearly 14% of the nation’s coronavirus cases.

Experts say children must get the shots if the country is to vaccinate the 70% to 85% of the population necessary to reach herd immunity.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

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