While the Pfizer vaccine is now available to everyone 16 years old and over, Americans ages 12 to 15 may soon become eligible.
A clinical trial conducted by Pfizer with thousands of tweens and teenagers showed the vaccine is exceptionally safe and effective.
That authorization from the FDA could come by early next week or sooner, at which point the Federal Vaccine Advisory Committee would meet to review the data and make its recommendation to the CDC, all of which could be completed in a matter of days
"I don't have a 12- to 15-year-old anymore but if I did, I'd feel one hell of a lot safer if that kid went to school fully vaccinated than if they weren't vaccinated," said Dr. Robert Wachter, professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF.
He hopes that if the Pfizer vaccine soon becomes available to those ages 12 to 15, parents won't hesitate to get their children vaccinated.
"Adding the 12- to 15 year-olds to the mix... it really does help to bump up the level of community vaccination," Dr. Wachter told News 8. "It should help us to get to herd immunity even faster."
Pfizer said that in its recent clinical trial of 2,260 12-to-15 year-olds, its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was extremely safe, with an efficacy of 100%. Out of 18 adolescents infected with COVID-19 during the trial, all had received the placebo, not the actual vaccine.
"I think once it gets authorized, I think you'll pick up probably 5 million kids will get immediately vaccinated," said former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
He said that there are roughly 17 million 12-to-15 year-olds nationwide.
"I think probably another 5 to 7 million would get vaccinated over the course of the summer before the school year," he added.
This anticipated authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 and over comes as the CDC is also rolling out new guidance for opening summer camps, most of which were shut down last year.
According to the CDC, overnight camps should ask everyone, including campers, to be fully vaccinated if eligible, or to self-quarantine two weeks ahead of arrival and show proof of a negative test.
Medical experts also say that while younger children have demonstrated lower rates of COVID transmission, that is not the case with older tweens and teenagers.
"The kids are safer than adults but in terms of transmission, 12- to 15-year-olds pretty much look like adults," Dr. Wachter noted. "It is usually the kids under 12 who have a lower risk of transmission."
While none of the 12- to 15-year-olds who received the Pfizer vaccine in the clinical trial contracted COVID-19, some did experience the same side effects as young adults, like fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose.