TORONTO -- The Ontario government says it's accelerating second COVID-19 vaccine doses for youth in order to support a safe return to school in September.

Starting at 8 a.m. on July 5, youth aged between 12 and 17 will be able to book their second dose appointment through the provincial system and receive the Pfizer vaccine.

This age group will also be able to book through some participating pharmacies and directly through public health units in areas that use their own booking system.

In a news release on Friday, the Ontario government said accelerating the second dose will provide students with a strong level of protection against COVID-19 before returning to class. 

"Expanding the eligibility for accelerated second doses to include youth aged 12 to 17 is another positive step in the rollout of vaccines across Ontario," Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a statement Friday. 

More than 15 million vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario since the rollout began, with more than 77 per cent of adult Ontarians having received their first dose and more than 42 per cent fully immunized.

Last month, the Ontario government accelerated second doses for people in the province over 18. 

Students in Ontario have not returned to in-person learning since the third wave gripped the province earlier this year.