White House Expects COVID Vaccinations for Children to Be 'Up and Running' by Nov. 8
With the Food and Drug Administration announcing Friday that they had approved a smaller dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11, the White House said they expect vaccination sites to be "up and running" by the week of Nov. 8.
The vaccine is the first to protect this younger age group against COVID-19, and an independent advisory committee of experts "overwhelmingly voted in favor" of authorizing its use after clinical trials showed that it was 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic illness. A panel from the Centers for Disease Control will meet this week to give the final approval before the rollout can begin.
The White House, though, said that they may not be able to instantly begin giving out shots once it is approved, and asked for patience from parents as they figure out the distribution process.
"We're talking about a specialized vaccine for children," Jeff Zients, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator, told NPR. "We are hard at work, planning the logistics and making sure that vaccines will be available at tens of thousands of sites that parents and kids know and trust."
This younger age group will get smaller doses of the vaccine — 10 micrograms compared to 30 for people aged 12 and up — and it will be administered using smaller needles. Organizing that and getting the doses to vaccination sites will take some time, but it's a priority for the White House.
"Our goal is to get as much vaccine as possible pre-positioned, as we await CDC's decision mid next week," Zients said.
And once it is formally approved, parents can expect to take their kids to pediatricians, pharmacies, schools and children's hospitals for the shots. They should be able to sign up for appointments by the end of this week, and available locations will be on vaccines.gov.
"While we hope to see the first set of kids start to get vaccinated at the end of next week, the bulk of vaccines will be in their locations by the week of Nov. 8," Zients said. "Between now and then, the program will be ramping up to its full strength."
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The White House said that they have purchased enough vaccine doses to inoculate the 28 million kids aged 5 to 11 years old in the U.S. Recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed some hesitancy among parents, however, with just three in ten saying that they would immediately vaccinate their 5- to 11-year-olds once the vaccine is approved. One-third of parents said they would wait to see how the vaccine is working, and the final third said they will not vaccinate their kids.
Though children are at a lower risk of severe disease and hospitalization from COVID-19, they can still get sick and pass the virus on to others. More children have been hospitalized since the emergence of the delta variant, and currently, children are testing positive for COVID-19 at a disproportionately high rate. During the week of Oct. 14, those 18 and younger accounted for 25.5% of all cases in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, despite making up just 22.2% of the total population.
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