The U.S. vaccination program for young children should be ‘fully up and running’ the week of Nov. 8, a Biden administration official said Monday, as a key panel prepares to meet Tuesday to consider the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for kids ages 5 to 11.
The federal COVID-19 response team has been “preparing for weeks,” said coordinator Jeff Zients in a briefing, including by securing enough supply for 28 million children in recent weeks.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer vaccine last week for the 5-11 age group, setting off packing and the first shipments of vaccine out to thousands of locations around the country.
“Starting the week of Nov. 8, the kids’ vaccination program will be fully up and running,” Zients said Monday. “Parents will be able to schedule appointments at convenient sites they know and trust to get their kids vaccinated, and the number of sites will continue to increase throughout the month.”
The program’s launch is pending a decision from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory panel, which will hold a virtual meeting Tuesday to decide their clinical recommendations for the Pfizer vaccine.
If they recommend its authorization. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky can then make the final call almost immediately, which would initiate the vaccine’s rollout.
“I deeply understand the urgency and concern over providing the best protection to our children against the virus,” Dr. Walensky said Monday.
Walensky outlined the data around the Pfizer vaccine for young kids, including the fact that it can be up to 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 and studies found no serious side effects among children who got the shot.
“We also know parents will have a lot of questions. And I would encourage parents to ask questions as they consider the benefits of vaccinating their children,” Dr. Walensky added, noting that it’s also critical to surround kids with vaccinated adults for their protection.
Officials also announced Monday two new milestones: 80% of U.S. adults have gotten at least one shot of coronavirus vaccine and 70% are fully vaccinated.
By the end of the day, coordinator Zients said, about 20 million people will have also gotten a booster dose, including around two million in just the last two days.
White House officials reiterated Monday that the majority of new COVID cases around the country continue to be among the unvaccinated. Continuing to vaccinate that group is still key as younger kids become eligible for shots.
“We expect that several million doses are already in route to sites around the country,” Zients described. “We are planning on some vaccinations towards the end of this week but the program for kids ages five through 11 really hitting full strength the week of November 8.”