Getty A teen receives a COVID-19 vaccine
Vaccination sites in parts of Georgia have already begun giving Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds, before the Centers for Disease Control has formally recommended its use in the age group.
Kids in Decatur, Georgia, lined up to get their vaccine on Tuesday, one day after the Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer's vaccine for use in 12- to 15-year-olds. Technically, vaccinations are not supposed to begin for the age group until a vaccine advisory panel at the CDC officially recommends them, although that announcement is expected to come on Wednesday.
Jacob Laney, 14, told CNN that he and his mom went to a vaccine site in Decatur to see if he could get vaccinated.
"My friend got COVID and it looked really bad, and I just did not want to get it," he told the outlet, adding that once he's fully vaccinated, "I think I'll be less scared of getting it and less scared of having issues with COVID-19."
Another 14-year-old, Cameron Carrion, said his mom watched Laney's interview on CNN and took him to get vaccinated at the same site.
"I feel like it's better that I got it because I can go out more instead of just staying home and doing nothing," he said.
The rest of the U.S. is preparing to start vaccinating adolescents on Thursday, in anticipation of the CDC's approval. Clinical trials showed that Pfizer's vaccine is extremely effective in this age group and prevented COVID-19 illness in 100% of participants.
RELATED VIDEO: The Importance of the COVID-19 Vaccine and the Call for 'Unity'
"Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations," Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement on Monday.
Expanding vaccine eligibility and allowing kids to get vaccinated will move the country closer to reaching herd immunity, Woodcock said.
"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."
Anticipating some hesitancy from parents, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky emphasized Tuesday that the vaccine is safe for use.
"I would encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated. I know many parents are enthusiastic and have been texting me," Walensky said during a Senate hearing, according to the Washington Post. "Some parents want to be first, but I'm also encouraging children to ask for the vaccine. I have a 16-year-old myself, and I can tell you he wanted to get the vaccine. He wants his life back. These kids want to go back to school."
As of May 12, more than 58% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 44.7% are now fully vaccinated against the virus, the CDC reports. New cases are also dropping significantly — infections are now averaging around 38,000 a day, a decrease of 29% over the last 14 days, according to The New York Times.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.