By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee on Wednesday followed the Food and Drug Administration in recommending the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. It’s already approved for those over the age of 16.

The vote from the advisory panel is expected to be signed by the director of the CDC in hours.

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This means that close to 17 million teenagers are now eligible to get the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.

Even before the CDC vote, teenagers were receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday at the King of Prussia Mall. It was authorized for expanded use by the FDA on Monday.

“We have been eagerly anticipating the extension to every person,” said Amy Laursen, a mom.

“I’ll be able to hang out with my friends again,” Helena Laursen said, “because I’ve been hanging out with them only like outside and like really far apart, so it’ll be nice to get to see them closer.”

Research on 2,000 teens showed the vaccine is safe and effective. They received the same dose as adults but developed even higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies.

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“This will be a big step that will allow for students and educators to feel more confident,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. “Even though our youngest residents have among the lowest rates of hospitalizations and deaths, they have had among the greatest rates of transmission.”

Updated numbers show 22 million children between the ages 5 and 17 have been infected with COVID-19, accounting for 19% of all infections.

“The more people who choose to get vaccinated the safer our community will be and the sooner we can get back to normal,” Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chairperson Dr. Val Arkoosh said.

Expanded authorization of the Pfizer vaccine means 85% of the U.S. population would be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I recognize that some parents want to sort of see how it goes,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “but I am encouraging all parents to get their children vaccinated. Some parents won’t want to be first, but I’m also encouraging children to ask for the vaccine.”

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Minors have to be accompanied by parents to get vaccinated, and that can happen at locations that are already offering the Pfizer vaccine.

Stephanie Stahl