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Photo: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12- to 15-year-old adolescents, the agency announced on Monday.

Why it matters: The emergency authorization marks a critical milestone in the push to get more Americans vaccinated and fully reopen schools for in-person learning this fall.

  • Pfizer has said its vaccine was 100% effective at protecting against COVID-19 in a trial of more than 2,200 children between the ages of 12 and 15.

What they're saying: “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," said acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

The big picture: Children are at low risk for serious illness from COVID-19, but experts say allowing the virus to circulate among unvaccinated kids could lead to new, more dangerous variants and slow down the protection of adults.

  • Still, about 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in individuals 11–17 years of age have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The FDA has already authorized Pfizer's vaccine for people 16 and older. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson also have trials for teens underway.

Yes, but: Parents' enthusiasm for the incoming emergency use authorization has so far been mixed, even among those who themselves have been vaccinated.

  • Only 52% of parents of a child under 18 said they’re likely to vaccinate their kids as soon as they're eligible, according to an Axios/Ipsos survey from April.
  • In a separate survey from KFF, 32% of parents said they'll wait to see how the vaccine works before getting their child vaccinated, and 19% said they definitely wouldn't get their child vaccinated. 

What's next: A CDC advisory committee will meet Wednesday to review the data and make recommendations for the vaccine’s use in 12- to 15-year-olds.

  • Moderna is expected to announce trial results for adolescents aged 12–17 in the second half of 2021, the New York Times reports.

Go deeper

May 10, 2021 - Health

BioNTech: "No evidence" that adapting vaccine to variants is necessary

A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Gramps bar in Miami, Florida. Photo: Alicia Vera/Bloomberg via Getty Images

BioNTech said Monday there is currently "no evidence" to support the need to adapt the company's coronavirus vaccine, developed with Pfizer, to be more effective against emerging variants.

Why it matters: Some health experts fear that contagious new variants could be more resistant against COVID-19 vaccines, prolonging the pandemic for years to come.

May 10, 2021 - Sports

420 athletes take part in Olympics test event in Tokyo

American Justin Gatlin (2nd L) crosses the finish line to win the men's 100m final ahead of Japan's Yuki Koike (L) and Shuhei Tada (R)during the "Ready Steady Tokyo" Olympics test event, part of the World Athletics Continental Tour at the National Stadium, in Tokyo Sunday. Photo: Toru Hanai/Getty Images

American sprinter Justin Gatlin was among 420 athletes to participate in a Tokyo test event with pandemic precautions in place Sunday ahead of this summer's delayed Olympic Games.

The big picture: No spectators were present during the event at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium as the city remains under a COVID-19 state of emergency due to a spike in coronavirus cases.