Millions of children’s Covid vaccines on the way to pediatricians, clinics

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The Covid vaccine for children is on its way to doctors’ offices across the country, and could be ready to use as soon as Wednesday, White House officials said Monday.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s lower-dose Covid vaccine for emergency use in kids ages 5 to 11 Friday, a move that allowed the federal government to start distributing doses to pediatricians’ offices, rural health clinics, children’s hospitals, pharmacies and other sites where children will be able to receive the vaccine. 

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“The FDA authorization was the regulatory trigger that allowed for the beginning of the picking, packing and shipping processes and that started within minutes of the authorization, White House Covid response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said during a press briefing Monday. “We expect 7 million doses are already en route around the country. In the next week, 15 million doses will be deployed around the country.” 

Before shots can start going into arms, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must officially sign off. The agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Tuesday to vote on whether to recommend the shots, and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky could sign off as soon as Tuesday evening. If that happens, kids could start getting vaccinated the following day. 

“The number of sites will continue to increase throughout the week,” Zients said, encouraging parents to call their children’s health care providers to schedule a shot. By the week of Nov. 8, he expects the pediatric vaccination program to be “fully up and running.”

As of Oct. 28, 6.4 million children have been infected with Covid since the onset of the pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Monday. This includes more than 100,000 new cases in the last week. 

Pediatric cases have been falling since early September, but community transmission is still high in most counties. 

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“We know vaccines are the very best tool we have to accelerate our path out of the pandemic,” Zients said.

Pfizer’s clinical trial data showed the lower-dose vaccine to be almost 91 percent effective against symptomatic illness, even when tested against the more contagious delta variant. 

“The FDA advisers reviewed safety data and found no severe adverse events,” Walensky said Monday during the briefing, adding that kids had similar vaccine side effects as adults, including a fever and sore arm. 

According to Zients, the nation has enough vaccines for everyone in the 5 to 11 age group to be fully vaccinated. 

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