Biden Says U.S. Prepared to Roll Out Vaccines For Younger Kids

If authorized by health officials, COVID vaccines will be free and convenient for children ages 5 to 11.

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Updated on October 20, 2021.

Federal health officials renewed their plea to the 66 million unvaccinated Americans who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine to get their shots, reminding them about other dangerous or deadly diseases, such as measles, pertussis, mumps, rubella, polio, and others, that that are no longer common in the U.S. thanks to vaccines.

In an October 20 White House briefing, Anthony Fauci, M.D., Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), emphasized that in other parts of the world, more than 2 million people, mostly children, die from vaccine preventable diseases each year—not because of hesitancy to vaccinate, but due to lack of access.

That’s not the case in the United States, where the Biden Administration announced it has now secured enough vaccines to immunize—not only every eligible American age 12 and older but also the country’s 28 million children ages 5 to 11-years old.

Pending the authorization of the COVID vaccine for this younger age group from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the approval of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the White House says that the vaccine will be free and easily accessible for children in this younger age group.

CDC director, Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, pointed to the latest data available on teens, which shows that among young people ages 12 to 18-years old, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were 93 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

 “Vaccines are safe, effective and a way out of this pandemic,” said Jeff Zients, White House COVID-⁠19 Response Coordinator during the briefing.

How vaccines for kids will be distributed

If U.S. regulatory and health officials determine that based on all available evidence that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for children as young as 5, doses would be available to these kids in a matter of days.

The Biden Administration says it is working with the public and private sector to ensure that all states have the supply and the support they need to effectively distribute an adequate supply of vaccines. This includes packaging in smaller configurations for easier storage, smaller needles and more than 25,000 vaccination sites at pediatric and primary care provider locations.

“Pediatricians, and other doctors, are some of the most trusted sources for families when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines for children,” the Biden Administration stated in an October 20 release. “Pediatricians, pediatric specialists, nurses and team members will administer the vaccine to kids in trusted, family-friendly settings that serve kids every day.”

Vaccination sites will also be available at tens of thousands of pharmacies, schools, and other trusted community-based sites across the country, according to federal officials, who noted that pharmacies will offer vaccination appointments and walk-ins at hours that are convenient for kids and their parents.

Vaccines aren’t available for younger kids—yet

In early October, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they requested authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use of their mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for kids between 5 and 11-years old.

The vaccine is already FDA-approved for use in people ages 16-years and older and is available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for kids and teens between 12 and 15-years old. If that EUA is amended by the FDA, the Pfizer vaccine will be the first COVID vaccine available to children as young as 5-years old.

Anticipating this request from Pfizer to amend its emergency use authorization, the FDA already scheduled an advisory committee meeting to be held on October 26. The committee will evaluate the available data and make a recommendation.

In late September, Pfizer released Phase 2/3 trial results which showed that its COVID vaccine was not only safe but also triggered a "robust" antibody response in younger kids.

The trial included 2,268 children between 5 and 11-years old. Like teens and adults, these younger kids were given two doses of the vaccine 21 days apart. But they received a lower dose of 10-micrograms. People ages 12 and older get two 30-microgram doses.

Pfizer and BioNTech point out this dose was chosen carefully to ensure its safety and tolerability among younger people, while ensuring its effectiveness.

COVID cases among kids are rising

As of October 14, nearly 6.2 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. More than 1.1 million child cases were added over the past six weeks, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports.

Since the start of the pandemic, children represented 16.4 percent of all cases. As of October 14, this has jumped to 25.5 percent as the more contagious and severe Delta variant account for nearly all new cases in the United States. Yet, children younger than 18-years old make up about 22 percent of the total U.S. population.

Although severe illness and hospitalization among children remains rare, the AAP points out that the long-term physical and mental effects of COVID-19 are still unknown.

Article sources open article sources

The White House. “FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Announces Update on Operational Planning for COVID-⁠19 Vaccinations for Kids Ages 5-11.” Oct 20, 2021.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA Vaccination Against COVID-19 Hospitalization Among Persons Aged 12–18 Years — United States, June–September 2021.” October 19, 2021.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “FDA to Hold Advisory Committee Meetings to Discuss Emergency Use Authorization for Booster Doses and COVID-19 Vaccines for Younger Children.” Oct 1, 2021.
American Academy of Pediatrics. “Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report.” Oct 14, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID Data Tracker: Variant Proportions.” Oct 20, 2021.

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