The U.S. government will rely heavily on pediatricians and family doctors in its Covid-19 vaccine rollout for kids ages 5 to 11, starting as early as next month, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday.
The White House has asked governors to enroll pediatricians and other providers in vaccination programs so they can begin administering shots as soon as the doses are authorized by U.S. regulators for use in young kids, Zients told reporters.
Federal health officials have also asked states to plan to implement outreach and education campaigns, Zients said, and ensure Covid vaccination sites are available in areas of “high social vulnerability” and in rural areas.
“If it is authorized by the FDA and CDC, we will be ready,” Zients said during a press briefing on the pandemic. “We have the supply. I want to emphasize it’s a different supply; the dose for kids is a different dose than adults.”
Parents say they are anxious to get their children vaccinated as kids start the new school year with the delta variant still surging across America. The number of new Covid cases in kids remains exceptionally high, with more 750,000 child cases added over the past four weeks, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
For the week ending Oct. 7, children accounted for 24.8% of reported weekly Covid cases, even though they make up about 22% of the U.S. population, according to the group. Children’s infections represent 16.3% of all Covid cases since the pandemic began, the academy said.
The company submitted data that showed a two-dose regimen of 10 micrograms — a third of the dosage used for adults and kids 12 and up – is safe and generates a strong immune response in a clinical trial of young children. It said the shots were well tolerated and produced an immune response and side effects comparable with those seen in a study of people ages 16 to 25.
Vaccinations for young kids could begin in early November, pending a favorable review by regulators, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Wednesday.
A key FDA vaccine advisory committee is scheduled to meet on Oct. 26 to discuss Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine data on kids, followed by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group meeting on Nov. 2. If all goes well, the doses could be distributed within days of the November meeting, he told reporters.