Vaccinations for children under 5 due as early as June 21

A nurse administers a pediatric dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to a girl at a L.A. Care Health Plan vaccination clinic at Los Angeles Mission College in the Sylmar neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, January 19, 2022.

Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

Covid vaccinations for children under age 5 are expected to begin as early as June 21, a senior Biden administration health official said on Thursday.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, said the Biden administration will initially make 10 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available to states, pharmacies and community health centers. States can begin placing orders on Friday, Jha said, but the vaccine doses will ship only after the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the shots.

The FDA is expected to make its decision on Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid shots for infants through preschoolers soon after the agency’s committee of independent experts reviews the data on June 15, Jha said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would then issue its recommendations quickly after the FDA decision, which would allow vaccinations to begin after the Juneteenth federal holiday, he said.

Jha said it will take some time for the vaccination program to ramp up, but added that every parent should be able to get an appointment within weeks of the rollout.

“We’re going to ship doses out as fast as possible,” Jha told reporters during White House press briefing. “We’re going to make sure that supply is always meeting demand. And we’re going to do everything we can to make it easy for providers and parents alike to get their kids vaccinated.”

Parents have been waiting months for the FDA to authorize the shots for kids under age 5, which is the only group left in the U.S. not eligible for Covid vaccination. Though Covid is normally less severe in children than adults, hospitalizations of kids under age 5 were five times higher during the winter omicron surge compared to the peak during the previous delta wave, according to the CDC.

Pfizer said its three-dose vaccine for children ages 6 months through 4 years old was 80% effective at preventing illness from the omicron variant. The shots are three micrograms, one-tenth the dosage level for adults.

Moderna said its two-dose vaccine was about 51% effective against infection from omicron in children under 2 and about 37% effective among those 2 through 5. However, Moderna Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton said the antibody levels observed in the children should translate to high levels of protection against severe illness. Moderna’s shots are 25 micrograms, much smaller than the 100 micrograms currently approved for adults.

If FDA authorizes the shots in June, parents would have a few months to get their kids vaccinated ahead of the fall. Public health officials are expecting another wave of Covid infections then with people spending more time indoors in the colder weather.

Covid infections and hospitalizations have increased again in recent weeks as more transmissible omicron subvariants sweep the U.S. The nation is currently reporting more than 103,000 new infections per day on average as of Tuesday, according to CDC data. More than 3,700 people with Covid are admitted to hospitals per day on average, according to the data.

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