NEW YORK, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) independent panel of vaccine experts on Wednesday endorsed Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 booster shots for children aged 12 to 15, as kids return to school amid an unprecedented surge of infections across the United States.

“A single Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster dose is recommended for persons aged 12 to 17 years at least 5 months after primary series under the FDA’s emergency use authorization,” said the recommendation. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to quickly sign off on the committee’s endorsement to make it effective. The advisers made the recommendation after hearing research on rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in young people who have gotten COVID-19 vaccines and noting that many parents are concerned about long-term side effects of vaccines. They also considered that vaccine uptake among 12- to 17-year-olds has slowed recently and weighed the record numbers of COVID-19 cases in children amid a surge of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine boosters to children aged 12 to 15. Pfizer boosters were previously authorized for people aged 16 and 17, and the CDC has already recommended people aged 16 and older get boosters. Hospitalizations of children infected with COVID-19 are rising in the United States as the highly contagious Omicron variant drives a wave of infection in the broader population. Multiple studies have shown that booster shots significantly increase protection against infection and severe illness.