NEW YORK — With many parents nationwide wondering when they’ll be able to get their toddlers vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in with his prediction Monday. According to the country’s top infectious disease expert, U.S. approval of a COVID vaccine for children under 5 could come within the next few months.

“That’s gonna be sometime in the first quarter of 2022,” Fauci said. “Hopefully earlier in the quarter than later,” he added.

Kid-size doses for 5- to 11-year-olds rolled out in November, with experts saying healthy youngsters should be protected after their second dose for a while.

“Certainly there needs to be more studies done in the children from 6 months to 4-to-5 years,” Fauci said Monday.

Pfizer is studying its vaccine, in even smaller doses, for children younger than 5.

Fauci’s prediction came just hours before the Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s COVID booster shot for children as young as 12 years old. Before Monday, only those 16 and older were allowed the extra dose.

The older teens, 16- and 17-year-olds, became eligible for boosters in early December. But original vaccinations opened for the younger teens, those 12 to 15, back in May.

Watch Dan Mannarino’s full interview with Dr. Fauci at the top of this story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.