Oct. 21 (UPI) — The White House on Wednesday unveiled its plan to vaccinate tens of millions of children in the United States between the ages of 5 and 11 against COVID-19, ahead of a key meeting at which regulators are expected to authorize the shots.
The plan includes working with state and local officials to establish distribution strategies and set up at least 100 clinics to administer the doses to school-age children.
“Today the Biden administration is announcing a plan to ensure that, if a vaccine is authorized for children ages 5-11, it is quickly distributed and made conveniently and equitably available to families across the country,” the White House said in a statement.
“Our planning efforts mean that we will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final CDC recommendation.”
The White House said the government already has enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine for 28 million children in that age range, and there will be 25,000 offices and sites to administer the shots.
“Parents know and trust children’s hospitals to be there for their children’s medical needs, and these vaccination efforts will be no different,” the White House added. “Pediatricians, pediatric specialists, nurses and team members will administer the vaccine to kids in trusted, family-friendly settings that serve kids every day.”
The plan says schools, community-based clinics and health centers will be recruited to vaccinate children, and an education campaign will accompany the push to build public trust.
An advisory FDA committee will meet next week to decide whether to recommend the shots for children 5-11. If it votes to recommend the vaccinations, it’s likely the FDA and CDC would follow to finalize authorization and begin inoculations.
The plan comes as the FDA and CDC are also expected to authorize booster doses of Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines, and sign off on the safety of “mixing and matching” doses — meaning, for example, that a person who received the Pfizer vaccine can safely receive a booster produced by Johnson & Johnson.
The White House outlined several steps to achieve child vaccinations, including securing enough supplies of vaccine, setting up vaccination sites and education and engagement efforts.
The plan says officials will also distribute the child vaccines through tens of thousands of pharmacies nationwide and at schools.
“Millions of adolescents ages 12-17 have been safely vaccinated, and we know vaccines work,” the White House added. “The consequences of a pediatric COVID-19 case can be serious and potentially last months.
“The potential authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 … would be another major milestone in our efforts to build on this historic progress and protect even more Americans.”