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COVID-19 vaccination for children under 5 years could begin as soon as June 21, and 10 million doses are expected to be available initially, White House officials said Thursday.
The update on the authorization and distribution of the long-awaited vaccines for this age group came as COVID cases are rising.
“We know that many many parents are eager to vaccinate their youngest kids, and it’s important to do this right,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish K. Jha, M.D., M.P.H., said in a press briefing.
On June 15, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet to review emergency use authorization (EUA) requests for a two-dose Moderna vaccine for children 6 months through 5 years and a three-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 6 months through 4 years. The vaccines for these age groups will be lower doses than those for older children and adults.
If the FDA grants an EUA to a vaccine, shipping can begin. However, the vaccines would not be able to be administered until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved them. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to meet within a day or two of the FDA’s committee. If the CDC approves, Dr. Jha said he expects vaccination to begin June 21, following the Juneteenth holiday observed the day before.
States can begin ordering vaccines Friday, June 3. Officials recommend prioritizing distribution to sites that serve high-risk children, those in hard-to-reach areas and those that can handle large volumes like children’s hospitals. He expects primary care providers to be handling much of the vaccination for this age group.
“Our expectation is that within weeks every parent who wants their child to get vaccinated will be able to get an appointment,” Dr. Jha said.
The CDC has outlined steps pediatricians and other vaccinators can take to prepare, which include enrolling as a COVID-19 vaccine provider, preparing scheduling systems, updating immunization information systems and training staff.
There are roughly 20 million children in the U.S. under 5 years, the only remaining age group still ineligible for vaccination. The vaccines under consideration would cover those as young as 6 months. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found about 18% of parents of children under 5 years plan to vaccinate their child right away, while about 38% said they would wait and see. About 29% of children ages 5-11 years are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
COVID-19 cases in children and adolescents have been rising. More than 376,000 were reported during the past four weeks, according to data from the AAP and Children’s Hospital Association.