Pfizer/BioNTech’s new pediatric COVID-19 vaccine vials are seen in this undated handout photo.
Pfizer | Reuters
The federal Covid-19 vaccine distribution program for children ages 5 to 11 will be “fully up and running” next week if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approves Pfizer and BioNTech’s doses for that age group, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday.
The Biden administration has already begun transferring 15 million vaccine doses from Pfizer to facilitate immunizations of younger children at pediatricians’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals and health centers, Zients said at a White House Covid briefing. Vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds could begin this week, Zients said. However, the CDC must first authorize the shots after the agency’s advisory committee meets Tuesday to discuss Pfizer’s vaccine data for young children.
“Starting the week of Nov. 8, the kids vaccination program will be fully up and running,” Zients said. “Parents will be able to schedule appointments at convenient sites they know and trust to get their kids vaccinated.”
The U.S. has acquired enough Pfizer doses to vaccinate all of the country’s 28 million children ages 5 to 11 against the virus, Zients said. The administration is working with more than 20,000 health providers to distribute the shots, Zients said, adding that the process will launch with 15 million shots before “millions of more doses” become available each week.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds on Friday, reporting that 146 children in that age group had died from the coronavirus as of Oct. 17. Pfizer researchers told the FDA’s advisory committee that their product was more than 90% effective at blocking symptomatic Covid cases in young kids, and the shots are a third of the dosage that adults receive.
CDC officials said during a presentation before the FDA’s advisory panel that obesity, lung disease and neurological conditions were some of the comorbidities in children that could cause dangerous Covid complications. Covid outbreaks have led to more than 2,000 school closures – impacting more than 1 million children and 68,000 teachers – nationwide since August, they said.
Children ages 5 to 11 represent approximately 9% of the country’s reported Covid cases, according to FDA data presented to the panel.