Editor’s note: For the latest news on COVID-19, visit http://bit.ly/AAPNewsCOVID19.
The White House is launching initiatives to get more children vaccinated against COVID-19 and keep schools open.
The plan includes federal funding for vaccine counseling among children from low-income families, an initiative for which the AAP has been advocating.
“By funding and requiring payment for vaccine counseling in Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), today's action will help make sure that parents can receive the guidance they need and can get their questions answered about vaccination from a physician who knows their child,” AAP President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP, said in a statement. “These programs provide health care coverage for more than 39 million children in the United States, including many children from communities of color, making this support for vaccine counseling critically important.”
“This is a moment we can do what we haven't been able to do enough of through this whole pandemic,” Biden said Thursday. “Get the nation to come together, unite the nation in a common purpose to fight this virus, to protect one another, protect our economic recovery, and to think of it in terms of literally a patriotic responsibility rather than somehow you're denying people their basic rights.”
Children make up about one-quarter of new cases each week, and nearly 132,000 new pediatric cases were reported in the past week, according to AAP data. Children ages 5 and older are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. So far, 4 million children ages 5-11 years and about 15 million adolescents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
In addition to Medicaid funding for vaccine counseling, the White House is aiming to increase vaccination rates by launching hundreds of vaccination clinics where all family members can get vaccinated at once. There will be family vaccination days at community health centers and mobile family clinics. In addition, thousands of pharmacies will implement family-based scheduling.
While vaccine manufacturers continue to conduct trials in children under 5 years before applying for emergency use authorization, Biden promised to provide resources to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help it review these applications quickly.
“I strongly support the independent scientific view of vaccine uses for children under 5,” he said. “We can't take shortcuts with that scientific work, but I'll do everything in my power to support the FDA to do this safely and quickly as possible.”
Health officials also are looking at ways to help schools stay open when a student or staff member has COVID-19. Some districts have been keeping exposed children in school by having them wear masks and get tested repeatedly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be releasing data on these approaches to quarantine and testing in the coming weeks.
The White House also will provide schools with tools to help them host vaccination events and implement vaccination requirements for school staff.
In addition to initiatives aimed at protecting children, the White House COVID-19 plan calls for
- improving booster uptake among adults through improved access, targeted outreach and calling on employers to provide paid time off;
- expanding free at-home testing;
- implementing stronger rules for international travel, including testing within a day of departure for all inbound international travelers and extending mask requirements;
- calling on businesses to require vaccination or weekly testing;
- deploying rapid response teams as needed;
- supplying COVID-19 treatment pills if authorized by the FDA;
- donating 1.2 billion vaccine doses globally; and
- working with vaccine manufacturers to prepare in case new vaccines or boosters are needed to combat the omicron variant.
Associate Editor Alyson Sulaski Wyckoff contributed to this report.
- AAP News story “Answers to lingering questions about vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds”
- CDC interim clinical considerations for COVID-19 vaccines
- AAP resources on becoming a vaccinator, preparing a pediatric practice for COVID-19 vaccination and getting paid
- Information for parents from HealthyChildren.org on vaccines for children