The Biden administration announced plans to roll out a COVID-19 vaccination program for young children, between the ages of 5 and 11, should regulators approve of shots for them in the coming weeks.
The plan hinges on regulators approving the vaccines for the age group, something that will be decided in the coming weeks and isn’t certain. Independent advisory committees for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will meet on October 26 and November 2-3, respectively, and agency-wide decisions could soon follow.
The White House has touted the efficacy of vaccines and their overall efficacy of preventing severe COVID-19 and death in the vast majority of circumstances to make the case. The administration also says they have procured enough vaccines for every child between the ages of 5 and 11.
“Millions of adolescents ages 12-17 have been safely vaccinated, and we know vaccines work,” the White House said in a statement Wednesday. “Fully vaccinated individuals are 10 times less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and have a high degree of protection, including against the Delta variant. The consequences of a pediatric COVID-19 case can be serious and potentially last months.”
“As with vaccination for those 12 and older, the success of this program will rely heavily on states, Tribes, and territories to help implement a smooth rollout,” continued the administration. “A major component of the Administration’s operational planning is working closely with state and local leaders to ensure they are prepared to distribute and administer vaccines.”
Few children, however, have died of COVID-19 compared to American adults and especially compared to more vulnerable adults, such as seniors or those with underlying medical conditions.
Since January 2020, fewer than 450 children between the ages of 5 and 18 have died of COVID-19, according to provisional data from the CDC. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that, in the 45 states with data current as of October 18, childhood COVID-19 cases resulted in deaths in between 0% and .03% of infected children.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children,” says the academy. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
The Biden administration says they have taken steps to ensure the operation goes smoothly, should regulators approve of the shots.
“If authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for [5- to 11-year-olds] will be a dose and formula specifically for this age group,” said the administration. “The vaccine will have packaging available in smaller configurations that will make it easier for physicians’ offices and other smaller, community-based providers to offer the vaccine to kids and their families.”
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