WASHINGTON (AP) – Anticipating the green light from vaccine advisers, the Biden administration assembles and ships millions of COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, the White House announced today. The first could go into the arms of children in the middle of the week.
“We are not waiting for operations and logistics,” said coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients.
By immunizing children, the United States hopes to prevent another wave of coronavirus during the cold months, when people spend more time indoors and respiratory illnesses can spread more easily. Cases have been declining for weeks, but the virus has repeatedly shown its ability to come back and more easily transmitted mutations are a lingering threat.
On Tuesday, a special advisory group from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet to consider detailed recommendations for administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to young children. The Food and Drug Administration has already cleared the injections, which provide about a third of the vaccine given to adults. Once CDC advisers make their recommendations, the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, will give the final order.
Zients said the government has enough Pfizer vaccines for the 28 million children aged 5 to 11. “We are in great shape on supply,” Zients said during the White House coronavirus briefing.
The childhood immunization campaign is expected to start later this week and be in full swing by next week. Parents can go to vaccines.gov and filter vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 to find a location near them that offers the vaccine.
Pfizer’s vaccine has already been approved for use in older children.
After the FDA gave its clearance for young children, the Biden administration asked states, territories and other jurisdictions to place their initial orders. Workers at the pharmaceutical company and distribution centers began the process of preparing and packaging 15 million doses, Zients said.
“More doses will be packaged, shipped and delivered,” he added. “More and more vaccines will be put online as we gain momentum. “
The goal is for parents to have a range of options for getting their children vaccinated, from pediatrician offices to clinics and pharmacies.
Walensky recognized both a sense of urgency and a concern to have children immunized. She pointed out that clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine for children have found it to be very effective in preventing serious illness with no serious side effects in safety and efficacy trials.
“There has been a lot of anticipation on the part of the parents,” Walensky said. “I encourage parents to ask questions.
Separately, Zients announced that about 70 percent of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated, while 80 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine.