White House announces COVID-19 vaccine plan for children aged 5 to 11 years
The White House announced a rollout plan to vaccinate children aged 5 to 11 years against COVID-19 should the FDA authorize the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in this age group.
“We know millions of parents have been waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine for kids in this age group,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said during a press conference Wednesday morning.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will meet on Oct. 26 to discuss Pfizer and BioNTech’s application for an emergency use authorization of the vaccine in kids aged 5 to 11 years. If the VRBPAC votes to recommend the vaccine for children in this age group and the FDA issues an EUA, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet to make federal recommendations, which it is expected to do during a 2-day meeting on Nov. 2 and 3.
The White House said it has secured enough vaccine to immunize the country’s 28 million children aged 5 to 11 years.
“Should the FDA and CDC authorize the vaccine, we will be ready to get shots in arms,” Zients said. “Kids have different needs than adults, and our operational planning is geared to meet those specific needs, including by offering vaccinations in settings that parents and kids are familiar with and trust.”
Pfizer’s proposed regimen for children aged 5 to 11 years is two shots given 21 days apart — the same schedule as in older age groups. However, the dose would be smaller — two 10 µg shots.
“As soon as the vaccine is authorized by the FDA, we will begin shipping millions of doses nationwide,” Zients said.
He said the rollout will extend beyond pharmacies and physicians’ offices.
“To make vaccinating kids even more convenient, we'll work with state and local education leaders to bring vaccination clinics directly to schools, including by matching pharmacies and other vaccine providers with school districts to set up on-site clinics,” Zients said.
He said they would ship vaccines “to pediatricians, pharmacies, community health centers and rural health centers, working with children's hospitals to host vaccination sites, including on nights and weekends, helping schools stand up vaccination clinics and deploying mobile clinics to meet families where they are.”
“We will ensure that vaccinations for kids ages 5 through 11 are easy, convenient and accessible to every family,” Zients said.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, described a public information campaign that would accompany the vaccine rollout.
“We're preparing a national public education campaign that will meet parents where they are with the information about the vaccines,” Murthy said during the briefing. “We will work with schools to send letters home to parents [and] will convene doctors and health clinics and support them in delivering vaccinations as soon as they have conversations with families.”
Murthy also implored parents to get vaccinated.
“We need everyone on board for the work ahead of us because every parent should have the information and tools that they need to help keep their kids safe and to help protect the kids under 5 who can't get vaccinated yet,” Murthy said. “We want parents to know that we share that goal, and that's why we were eagerly awaiting the waiting the FDA’s review of the data on children's vaccines.”
Children aged 12 to 17 years are already eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which remains the only COVID-19 shot available for children in the U.S.
“We have a lot of reasons to be hopeful the same vaccine technology has proven to be very effective with adults and adolescents,” Murthy said. “It's been tested in carefully run trials over the course of months, and now we've got our nation's top scientists carefully reviewing the data on its safety and effectiveness. We are all hoping that this process will culminate with the option to vaccinate our children ages 5 to 11, and if that option becomes available, we will be ready to ensure that everyone has the information and the access they need to protect their families.”
AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, said in a statement that the organization “look[ed] forward to working with the administration” in administering the vaccine “without barriers.”
“Parents trust us to care for their children, come to us with questions and concerns about how to keep them healthy and safe, and will turn to us during this next phase for reassurance and guidance about the COVID-19 vaccine,” Beers said. “We are ready to do what we’ve always done: counsel our families and protect our patients.
FDA to hold advisory committee meetings to discuss emergency use authorization for booster doses and COVID-19 vaccines for younger children. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-hold-advisory-committee-meetings-discuss-emergency-use-authorization-booster-doses-and-covid-19. Published Oct. 1, 2021. Accessed Oct. 20, 2021.
Pfizer and BioNTech submit initial data to U.S. FDA From pivotal trial of COVID-19 vaccine in children 5 to <12 years of age. https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-submit-initial-data-us-fda-pivotal. Published Sept. 28, 2021. Accessed Oct. 20, 2021.
The White House. Fact sheet: Biden administration announces update on operational planning for COVID-19 vaccinations for kids ages 5-11. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/10/20/fact-sheet-biden-administration-announces-update-on-operational-planning-for-covid-19-vaccinations-for-kids-ages-5-11/. Published Oct. 20, 2021. Accessed Oct. 20, 2021.