President Joe Biden’s administration is planning a large-scale rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 5 years old, officials announced on Oct. 20.
The administration has secured enough doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to vaccinate all of the country’s 28 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 and is prepared to ship the doses across the country to facilitate vaccination efforts, the White House stated.
Vaccine doses will be made available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and schools, among other sites. The Children’s Hospital Association has agreed to set up sites at more than 100 children’s hospital systems.
“Over the past several weeks, we’ve been working closely with governors, pediatricians, pharmacies, community health centers, rural health centers, and other vaccine providers to prepare for this moment. Together, we’re completing the operational planning to ensure vaccinations for kids ages 5 through 11 are available, easy, and convenient,” Jeffrey Zients, White House COVID-19 response team coordinator, told reporters in a virtual briefing.
The preparation comes despite neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deciding on vaccinating children that young, raising the risk of a repeat situation of the administration’s earlier announcement regarding COVID-19 vaccine boosters.
In August, top administration officials said they had decided on Sept. 20 that everybody should get a booster shot regardless of age or underlying conditions. But the FDA ended up only authorizing boosters of the two most widely used vaccines, one from Pfizer and another from Moderna, for certain populations after its advisory panel rejected booster shots for the general population due to a lack of proof they were needed.
The same panel is scheduled to meet next week to discuss Pfizer’s application to authorize its vaccine for children between ages 5 and 11. The panel makes recommendations to the FDA, which then chooses whether to adopt the recommendations. The agency typically accepts the recommendations with little or no revision.
If the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for younger kids, the CDC’s advisory panel would meet on the matter in early November, followed by similar deliberation by the CDC. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s head, recently overruled the panel on giving boosters to certain people, despite the majority of members voting against it.
The Oct. 20 announcement showed an administration that’s “circumventing the normal FDA processes…again,” Zachary Brennan, a reporter with the industry publication Endpoint News, wrote in a social media post.
Others disagreed, including Jason Schwartz, associate professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health.
Schwartz said there were “important differences” between the current planning and the booster announcement, including no set date being stated and “no specific talk about dose timing, etc., and other premature details announced then pre-FDA.”
Zients was asked about the similarities between the situations. He said the decision on authorization rests with the FDA and the CDC, but “at the same time, we want to be ready.”
Children as young as 12 can currently get Pfizer’s vaccine. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only available in the United States to those 18 or older.
Nearly 1.5 million children between 12 and 17 are considered to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Oct. 19, according to CDC data.
Fully vaccinated means a person has received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Supporters of vaccinating children, including many of the top administration officials, say it’s important for kids to get vaccinated to try to reach herd immunity and to lessen the chances that children get infected and then pass on the CCP virus to others.
“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 in the community,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told reporters on Oct. 20.
Opponents, though, note that children are at low risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19—many cases are believed to be asymptomatic—and are at an elevated risk of suffering heart inflammation from COVID-19 vaccines, especially the ones built on messenger RNA technology, such as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
“We’re talking about risks that are very low on both sides of the equation with a great amount of uncertainty around both. So it’s a very challenging choice to make. And I think it should be something left to the doctor and the parents talking about what’s in the best interest of the child,” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine and health policy at Stanford University, said on EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program.
The benefit of vaccination “is much less obvious” for children between 5 and 11 versus people who are older or are in high-risk groups, Steve Templeton, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, told The Epoch Times.
People at high-risk from COVID-19 include many elderly and those with serious underlying conditions such as diabetes and obesity.