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White House details vaccine plan for kids age 5-11

A youth receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the central Israeli city of Rishon LeZion on June 6. Children ages 5 to 11 will soon be able to get a COVID-19 shot at their pediatrician’s office, local pharmacy and potentially even their school, the White House said Wednesday. Associated Press file photo

WASHINGTON — Children ages 5 to 11 will soon be able to get a COVID-19 shot at their pediatrician’s office, local pharmacy and potentially even their school, the White House said Wednesday as it detailed plans for the expected authorization of the Pfizer shot for elementary school youngsters in a matter of weeks.

Federal regulators will meet over the next two weeks to weigh the safety and effectiveness of giving low-dose shots to the roughly 28 million children in that age group.

Within hours of formal approval, which is expected after the Food and Drug Administration signs off and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel meets on Nov. 2-3, millions of doses will begin going out to providers across the country, along with the smaller needles needed for injecting young children.

Within days of that, the vaccine will be ready to go into arms on a wide scale.

“We’re completing the operational planning to ensure vaccinations for kids ages 5 to 11 are available, easy and convenient,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said. “We’re going to be ready, pending the FDA and CDC decision.”

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses three weeks apart and a two-week wait for full protection to kick in, meaning the first youngsters in line will be fully covered by Christmas.

Some parents can hardly wait.

Dr. Sterling Ransone said his rural Deltaville, Virginia, office is already getting calls from people asking for appointments for their children and saying, “I want my shot now.”

“Judging by the number of calls, I think we’re going to be slammed for the first several weeks,” said Ransone, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Justin Shady, a film and TV writer in Chicago, said his 6-year-old daughter, Grey, got nervous when he told her she would be getting the shots soon. But he is bribing her with a trip to Disney World, and “she’s all in.”

The family likes to travel, “we really just want to get back in the swing of seeing the world,” Shady said.

As for youngsters under 5, Pfizer and Moderna are studying their vaccines in children down to 6 months old, with results expected later in the year.

The Biden administration noted that the expansion of shots to children under 12 will not look like the start of the country’s vaccine rollout 10 months ago, when limited doses and inadequate capacity meant a painstaking wait for many Americans.

The country now has ample supplies of the Pfizer shot to vaccinate the children who will soon be eligible, officials said, and they have been working for months to ensure widespread availability of shots. About 15 million doses will be shipped to providers across the U.S. in the first week after approval, the White House said.

More than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers have already signed on to dispense the vaccine to elementary school children, the White House said, in addition to the tens of thousands of drugstores that are already administering shots to adults.

Hundreds of school- and community-based clinics will also be funded and supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help speed the process.

In addition to doctors’ offices, schools are likely be popular spots for the shots.

In Maryland, state officials have offered to help schools set up vaccination clinics. Denver’s public schools plan to hold mass vaccination events for young children, along with smaller clinics offering shots during the school day and in the evenings. Chicago’s public health department is working closely with schools, which have already been hosting vaccination events for students age 12 and older and their families.

The White House is also preparing a stepped-up campaign to educate parents and children about the safety of the shots and the ease of getting them.

As has been the case for adult vaccinations, the administration believes trusted messengers — educators, doctors and community leaders — will be vital to encouraging vaccinations.

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