The United States’ Covid-19 vaccination program for children ages 5 to 11 will be “running at full strength” next week, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said during a virtual White House briefing Monday.
“While vaccinations may start later this week, the program will still be ramping up to its full strength, with millions more doses packed, shipped and delivered and thousands of additional sites coming online each day,” Zients said, noting that 15 million child-sized doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine already are being moved from Pfizer’s freezers and facilities to distribution centers.
“So, starting the week of November 8, the kids’ vaccination program will be fully up and running,” Zients said. “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 as more vaccine sites open their doors to administer vaccine.”
Pfizer’s vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 received emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday, and the CDC’s vaccine advisers meet Tuesday to consider whether to recommend its use in that age group. Shots can be administered after CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signs off on the recommendation.
Pfizer’s vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 is not only reformulated at one-third the dose, but re-packaged – with a new orange top, so it will be difficult to mix up with the adult vaccine.
The Biden administration has secured enough vaccine supply to vaccinate the 28 million children ages 5 to 11 who are eligible for vaccination and will help equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of community health centers and rural health clinics as well as tens of thousands of pharmacies to administer the shots, according to the White House.
Pfizer’s vaccine for younger children is a smaller dose – 10 micrograms, rather than 30 micrograms. The vaccine is expected to ship in packages of 100 doses, which is much smaller than the packages of 1,170 doses used for the adult vaccines.
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“The main difference for this rollout is that pediatrician offices are likely to be the places to administer vaccines,” Dr. Christina Johns, senior medical adviser at PM Pediatrics and a pediatrician in Annapolis, Maryland, wrote in an email to CNN.
“The biggest challenge right now is the unknown. We do not have information on when we can expect to receive shipments and the supply amounts, which can make setting the dates and times more difficult,” Johns said regarding vaccination appointments.
“We also want to be sensitive to the fact that these are children in school, so we need to make sure there is minimum loss of instruction time. Our goal is to make the whole process convenient, easy and accessible for families.”