Children ages 5 to 11 can soon get a COVID-19 vaccination at their pediatrician office, local pharmacy, and possibly even their school, the White House said on Wednesday as it plans for Pfizer’s expected approval – Vaccination for elementary school children explained in detail within a few weeks.
Federal regulators will meet over the next two weeks to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of giving low-dose syringes to the roughly 28 million children in this age group.
Millions of doses will be dispensed to vendors across the country within hours of formal approval expected after it is signed by the Food and Drug Administration and an advisory panel meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on November 2-3 , along with the smaller needles needed for injecting young children.
Within a few days, the vaccine will be ready for use on a large scale.
“We are finalizing operations planning to ensure that vaccinations are easily and conveniently available for children ages 5-11,” said Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 coordinator. “We’ll be ready pending the decision of the FDA and the CDC.”
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses three weeks apart and a two week wait for full protection to take effect, which means the first teens in line will be fully covered by Christmas.
Some parents can hardly wait.
Dr. Sterling Ransone said his rural office in Deltaville, Virginia is already receiving calls from people asking for appointments for their children and saying, “I want my chance now.”
“Judging by the number of calls, I think we’ll hit in the first few weeks,” said Ransone, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Justin Shady, a Chicago film and television writer, said his 6-year-old daughter Gray got nervous when he told her she would be getting the footage soon. But he bribed her with a trip to Disney World and “she’s full of it”.
The family loves to travel, “we really just want to get going again to see the world,” said Shady.
As for adolescents under the age of 5, Pfizer and Moderna are studying their vaccines in children up to 6 months of age, with results expected later in the year.
The Biden administration noted that expanding vaccinations to children under the age of 12 won’t look like the country’s vaccine rollout began 10 months ago, when limited doses and inadequate capacity made the wait a tedious for many Americans.
The country now has ample supplies of the Pfizer shot to vaccinate the soon-to-be eligible children, officials said, and they have been working for months to ensure widespread vaccination availability. About 15 million cans will be shipped to vendors in the United States in the first week after approval, the White House said.
More than 25,000 pediatricians and general practitioners have already committed to distributing the vaccine to elementary school children, according to the White House, in addition to the tens of thousands of drug stores that are already giving vaccinations to adults.
Hundreds of school and community clinics are also funded and supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help expedite the process.
The White House is also preparing an intensified campaign to educate parents and children about the safety of the shots and the ease with which they can be caught. As with adult vaccinations, the government believes that trusted messengers – educators, doctors, and community leaders – will be vital in promoting vaccination.
Dr. Lisa Reed, medical director of family medicine at MAHEC, a security netting provider in western North Carolina that services patients from rural Appalachians and more urban communities like the tourist town of Asheville, said it will take efforts to attract some families to Plank.
Reed said she lived “in a community that is unfortunately very reluctant to vaccinate.”
“Some have lower health literacy or belong to ethnic groups who are generally more reluctant,” she said. And Asheville, she said, has a sizable population of well-educated adults who have long been vaccine skeptics.
While children are less at risk of developing COVID-19 severely than the elderly, at least 608 teenagers in the United States have died from the virus, most of them between the ages of 5 and 18. Six million U.S. children have been infected, 1 million of them since early September amid the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Health officials believe that expanding the vaccine campaign will not only curb the alarming number of infections in children, but will also reduce the spread of the virus to vulnerable adults. It could also help keep schools open and youth back on track academically, and help the nation’s wider recovery from the pandemic.
“COVID has also disrupted our children’s lives. It has made school difficult, it has impaired their ability to see friends and family, it has made youth sports a challenge, ”said US surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told NBC. “When we vaccinate our children, we have the prospect of protecting them, but also of getting back all the activities that are so important to our children.”
Murthy said the government, which imposes vaccination mandates on millions of adults, leaves it to state and local officials to decide whether to vaccinate school children. However, he said that such action was “a sensible thing”.
“It’s also in line with what we’ve done for other children’s vaccines like measles, mumps and polio,” he said.
The US bought 65 million doses of Pfizer’s pediatric syringe, which officials say will be a third of the dose for adults and adolescents. They’re shipped in smaller packages of around 100 cans each to allow more vendors to deliver them, and they don’t require the super cold storage that the adult version initially did.
Approximately 219 million Americans 12 years and older, or 66% of the total population, have received a COVID-19 vaccination, and nearly 190 million are fully vaccinated.
Tanner reported from Chicago.