CHICAGO (CBS) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.

“The FDA’s expansion of the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age is a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a news release. “Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic. 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.”

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From March 1 through April 30, about 1.5 million COVID-19 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in young people between the ages of 11 and 17. Children and adolescents usually have milder cases of COVID-19 than adults, the FDA noted.

The FDA has determined the Pfizer vaccine has met the statutory criteria to amend the emergency use authorization for younger ages – and that the benefits outweigh the risks for everyone age 12 or older.

Cook County Health said it will make a public announcement about when it expects to offer the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 12 to 15. The CDC still must provide authorization.

That offering for kids could come later this week. Five mass-vaccination sites in Cook County are already preparing for an anticipated rush for shots by expanding hours this week.

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The sites are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. No appointments are necessary.

The following are the mass vaccination sites that will soon provide vaccines for children 12 to 15:

  • Matteson – 4647 Promenade Way
  • River Grove – Triton College, 2000 5th Ave.
  • South Holland – South Suburban College, 15800 State St.
  • Des Plaines – 1155 E. Oakton St.
  • Forest Park – 7630 W. Roosevelt Rd.

Reported COVID-19 cases involving young people ages 12 to 17 have been stable for approximately the past month in Illinois, but hovering at their highest level since late January. There were a total of 2,068 cases for that age range in Illinois reported for the week ending May 1, a total of 2,069 for the week ending April 24, and 2,156 for the week ending April 17.

If you are still looking to get a vaccine, the United Center has open appointments. Appointments are available through May 10 and the facility is back to offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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Appointments can be made via Zocdoc, or through the city’s COVID Help Line at (312) 746-4835.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff