By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As more COVID-19 restrictions are lifted around the Philadelphia area, there will be a new focus on getting teenagers vaccinated. Experts say it will provide protection for them during summer activities and it could help stop the spread of the virus.

The Pfizer vaccine is expected to be approved for emergency use for children over the age of 12 in the next couple of days, and officials are hoping that vaccinating more young people will make opening schools easier this fall.

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Kids with COVID-19 — numbers are declining, but new statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics say children now represent 22% of COVID cases.

That’s why there’s a big push to get more teenagers vaccinated.

“We’re trying to make it possible for these kids to be able to have as normal of a summer as possible,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

Currently, the vaccines are only approved for teens over the age of 16, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to OK the use of Pfizer’s vaccine in children ages 12 to 15. Trial results show its vaccine is as effective in that age group as in adults and study participants experienced few side effects.

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“If this vaccine is approved through emergency use authorization by the FDA, then parents don’t have to worry about that coin flip,” Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Children Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center, said. “They can take the risk out of it and protect their children.”

“This is just trying to beat the virus, trying to get everything back to normal,” Ben Dropic, a vaccine trial participant, said.

Children are less likely to develop severe symptoms of COVID-19, but health experts say it’s critical younger Americans get vaccinated for their own protection and to help the country reach herd immunity.

“If we don’t immunize that group, that’s going to leave a big part of the population that’s susceptible to the virus and be able to continue on the pandemic,” Dr. Robert Frenck Jr., the director of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Vaccine Research Center, said.

Children will be able to get the vaccine with their parents at most of the locations currently providing vaccines to adults.

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The vaccines are also being tested on children under the age of 12 and babies. Results are expected on that later this year.

Stephanie Stahl