(Fargo, ND) -- Essentia Health will soon be protecting 12-15-year-olds against COVID-19 now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for that age group.

The Pfizer vaccine had been available to everyone aged 16 and older. Monday evening, the FDA extended that availability after reviewing clinical trial data submitted by Pfizer, which showed 100% effectiveness among more than 2,000 United States trial participants aged 12-15. Shots are expected to begin Thursday following guidance from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine advisory committee that meets this afternoon.

The other two vaccines currently authorized in the U.S. — from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are only for those at least 18 years old. Essentia will make Pfizer vaccine available to those in the 12-15 group, though that availability is dependent upon supply at each vaccination site.

“The authorization process has been stringent with the FDA reviewing the data from Pfizer since April 9th,” said Dr. Sharnell Valentine, a pediatrician at Essentia Health. “This vaccine is highly effective and side effects are well tolerated and generally what were observed with people aged 16-25.”

Dr. Valentine noted that Canada already has approved the Pfizer shot for ages 12-15. She added that her and her teenage children “are looking forward to them having protection against COVID” once vaccinated.

The CDC has called the safety monitoring for COVID vaccines “the most intense and comprehensive in U.S. history.” Through the first 150 million doses administered in the U.S., there were about 50,000 adverse reactions, with less than 8,000 of those categorized as serious. That equates to a 0.0003% chance of adverse reaction for the overall population.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children increasingly are accounting for more of the United States’ new COVID cases, underscoring the importance of immunization among adolescents.

Patients and non-patients can make an appointment through Essentia’s MyChart patient portal or by calling (833) 494-0836.