White House readies vaccine rollout for children ages 5-11

(The Center Square) – The White House announced Wednesday new plans for the “potential authorization” of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11, saying they have enough vaccinations ready and waiting for the federal approval.

The White House prep suggests they expect favorable federal approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) despite hesitation from health officials earlier this year.

“We expect the FDA and CDC’s decision on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 in the next couple of weeks,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said during a White House teleconference Wednesday. “First, on supply: We have secured vaccine supply to vaccinate every child ages 5 through 11. And as soon as the vaccine is authorized by the FDA, we will begin shipping millions of doses nationwide.”

Pfizer submitted the trial data and asked for FDA authorization in early October. The FDA Advisory Committee is expected to meet next week followed by a CDC Advisory Committee recommendation, expected in early November. These timelines are subject to change, and no official approval has been announced.

“The start of a vaccination program for children ages 5-11 will depend on the independent FDA and CDC process and timeline, but 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. “These steps will be critical in ensuring that we are staying ahead of the virus by keeping kids and families safe, especially those at highest risk.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said her agency would still recommend masks for vaccinated students in schools.

Child vaccination has raised questions from critics who argue the vaccination needs more testing and is not worth the risk because COVID-19 infections for children are almost never fatal. Mask and vaccine mandates in schools around the country have become a divisive issue with little end in sight.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the administration will help coordinate a nationwide campaign to address these concerns and help get health care providers, schools, and parents onboard with the vaccination efforts.

“We’re preparing a national public education campaign that will meet parents where they are with the information about the vaccines,” Murthy said. “We will work with schools to send letters home to parents who will convene doctors and health clinics and support them in delivering vaccinations as soon as they have conversations with families.”

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