Rhode Island residents will be able to schedule appointments for children as young as 12 to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as early as the end of the day Tuesday.

Parents or legal guardians will be required to sign a form to authorize 12 to 15-year-olds to receive the Pfizer vaccine, but they will not be required to be present when the children receive the injections, Tricia Washburn, chief of the state Health Department’s office of immunization, said during a meeting of the COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee Tuesday morning. She said officials hoped to have the state’s website updated to sign up children for the shots “by the end of the day.”

The move follows the approval Monday by federal regulators of the expanded emergency use of the two-injection Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 12. A federal vaccine advisory committee is expected to issue recommendations on Wednesday for the use of the vaccines.

The state Health Department had previously issued guidance to move forward with vaccinating younger children as soon as federal regulators approved a vaccine for them, enabling the state to immediately begin offering the shots, Washburn said. 

Gov. Daniel J. McKee urged Rhode Islanders to get their children vaccinated. “This vaccine will help keep kids, families, and our community safe,’’ McKee said in a statement from the Health Department. 

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the department’s director, said that the Pfizer vaccine was “rigorously studied” prior to making it available to 12- to 15-year-olds. “Getting the child in your life vaccinated against COVID-19 is one of the most important things you can do to make sure their summer is healthy and safe.”

The state is conducting ongoing monitoring, Alexander-Scott said, of the effects of the more than 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine  administered to adults across the country during the last five months.

Rhode Island is working to expand vaccinations to middle and high school students before they head back to class in the fall. The timing is especially critical as pediatricians and other primary care providers begin updating students’ health forms with vaccinations required before returning to classrooms and school sports. 

Sixteen primary care providers in the state have signed up to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine doses for their patients, Washburn said. The state is hoping to begin distributing vaccine doses to those practices the week of May 17. The state has sent surveys to 140 primary care practices to assess which ones are able and willing to administer the vaccines. 

“We’re going to try to get this vaccine out to every primary care provider as quickly as we can,” Washburn said. 

About 67% of the state’s roughly one million residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, state health officials said, and 51% have been fully vaccinated

Rhode Island has administered over one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, a milestone that Gov. Daniel J. McKee praised during a media gathering Tuesday at Rhode Island Hospital, where the first dose was administered last December. 

This story has been updated

Health reporter Lynn Arditi can be reached at larditi@thepublicsradio.org. Follow her on Twitter @LynnArditi