The White House is preparing a nationwide push to vaccinate children who are 5 to 11 years old against COVID-19. Here, compiled from Globe wire and major media reports, is a quick roundup of what you need to know.
How soon could the shots be available?
The shots could become available around the first week of November if they’re approved by two federal agencies.
What kind of shots would they be?
The vaccine administered would be the Pfizer vaccine. Pfizer’s proposal calls for one-third of the dose approved for adolescents and adults. Two shots would be administered three weeks apart. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, makers of the two other major US vaccines, have not yet sought approval for a children’s vaccine.
Where would they be available?
Plans call for the shots to be available at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, schools, children’s hospitals, and community and rural health centers, the White House said. More than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers have already signed on to administer the shots, in addition to the tens of thousands of retail pharmacies that are already administering them to adults. Hundreds of school- and community-based clinics will be funded and supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, officials said.
“We’re completing the operational planning to ensure vaccinations for kids ages 5-11 are available, easy and convenient,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday.
We expect the FDA and CDC’s decision on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11 in the next few weeks and have put together a plan to ensure that vaccines for this age group are available, easy & convenient, should the FDA & CDC authorize the vaccine. https://t.co/o4eX8N2F8e— White House COVID-19 Response Team (@WHCOVIDResponse) October 20, 2021
What approvals are needed?
A US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is expected to meet to discuss the shots on Oct. 26, which would be followed by an FDA recommendation. Then a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel will meet Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, which would be followed by that agency’s recommendation.
“We’ve emphasized from the get-go that this will be driven by the science and the medicine. ... To be crystal clear, as I think everybody has emphasized, this decision on authorization is with the FDA, and with the CDC. At the same time, we want to be ready,” Zients said at a briefing of the White House COVID-19 response team. “The best practice here is to plan ahead so that we can hit the ground running at the time that CDC and FDA make their decision.”
How many kids will be able to get the shots?
Officials say there are roughly 28 million children in the United States who are 5 to 11. Massachusetts officials say that number includes 515,000 in this state. The White House said it has plenty of supply to cover every child in the age group, and 15 million doses will be shipped out in the first week.
What is the state of Massachusetts doing?
Governor Charlie Baker’s administration said in a statement that it “is actively planning for vaccinating 5-11 year olds” and awaiting “further guidance from the federal government.” The state has surveyed health care providers to determine their interest in, and capacity for, the shots. The administration noted that for the first week, the Department of Public Health would submit orders on behalf of health care providers. After that, “subsequent ordering will be submitted by health care providers directly.”
Why should children get the shots?
Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are uncommon in children, according to data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but experts point out that children are still susceptible to serious or long-haul versions of the illness. “Of course, adults are going to have much more severe diseases, but that doesn’t mean that children are not affected as well,” said Dr. Flor Munoz-Rivas, an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine.
In addition to protecting children from illness, experts say, vaccination will help ensure a more normal life for them by keeping them in school and other activities. It will keep them from spreading the virus to family, friends, and the community. And reducing virus transmission will reduce the chance that another virus variant will mutate and wreak more havoc with society.
“If we can get the overwhelming majority of those 28 million children vaccinated. I think that would play a major role in diminishing the spread of infection,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said in the briefing.
How much resistance is there going to be?
Zients said the administration’s goal is “to vaccinate as many kids 5 to 11 years of age as possible because we know ... that vaccines are our path to accelerate out of this pandemic.”
But a significant chunk of parents will likely be resistant to getting their children vaccinated. According to polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation published in late September, 34 percent of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds planned to get their children inoculated “right away” once a vaccine is authorized. Another 32 percent said they wanted to “wait and see” how the vaccine affected children.
Recent polling by a consortium that includes Harvard, Northeastern and other universities also found that 34 percent of parents of children under 12 were “extremely likely” to get them vaccinated, with another 18 percent “somewhat likely” and 15 percent “neither likely nor unlikely.” The polling, at the same time, found rising concern about child vaccinations among parents from June to September.
What’s the plan to overcome the resistance?
The government is planning a national public education campaign “to reach parents and guardians with accurate and culturally-responsive information about the vaccine and the risks that COVID-19 poses to children,” the White House said in a statement.
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said at the briefing, “We know one of the barriers and challenges we will face to getting vaccines to children is a similar barrier we faced with adults, which is that there’s a profound amount of misinformation that is circulating about vaccines. And that’s why we’re making sure that it’s trusted messengers with scientific credibility who go out there and talk about these vaccines.”
Zients indicated it might take time to convince parents to get their kids the shots.
“As we’ve seen with adults, confidence grows across time. At the start of the vaccination program, nine months ago, only 34 percent of adults were eager to get the shot. And today, 79 percent of adults have at least their first shot. So confidence increases across time,” he said.
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.
Martin Finucane can be reached at email@example.com.