- On Oct. 26 the FDA authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids 5 to 11 following a meeting of the agency’s vaccine advisory committee.
- The CDC’s expert vaccine panel voted Nov. 2 to recommend use of the vaccine, with a decision from the CDC expected later in the day.
- The vaccination program for this age group will be fully up and running by the week of Nov. 8.
U.S. federal officials say that the COVID-19 vaccination program for 5- to 11-year-olds will be fully up and running by the week of Nov. 8, with some sites able to start vaccinating children later this week.
The vaccine advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted Nov. 2 to recommend use of the lower-dose Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for this age group.
The head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, is expected to make her decision about recommending the vaccine later in the day.
Once the agency signs off on the pediatric vaccine, parents will be able to schedule their child for a vaccination appointment.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of this vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old after the agency’s own expert vaccine panel recommended this move.
The federal government has purchased enough doses of the vaccine to fully vaccinate all 28 million 5- to 11-year-olds in the country, federal officials said Nov. 1.
The White House is working with states and other jurisdictions to distribute doses to pediatricians’ and family doctors’ offices, school-based clinics, pharmacies, community health centers, and other sites.
After the CDC makes its decision about the vaccine, parents will be able to search for an open vaccination site for their child through Vaccines.gov.
As more doses are shipped over the coming days, additional sites will be able to open, said federal officials.
Expect some aspects of the rollout to be different than what happened for teens and adults, said Dr. Judith Flores, a pediatrician in Brooklyn, New York.
“You are not going to have [mass vaccination sites] and lots of Department of Health places to give kids vaccine,” she said. “Kids are probably going to be vaccinated by their own physicians.”
Dr. Sunanda Gaur, a professor of pediatrics at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, agrees that pediatricians should play the main role in vaccination because, in general, parents trust their child’s doctor.
“Pediatricians’ offices are well equipped to deliver vaccines to children, as they have been delivering childhood vaccines for many other illnesses,” she said. “Large vaccine sites and even pharmacies are not as proficient with pediatric vaccinations.”
In addition, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has different storage, handling, and administration requirements than flu vaccines, which may limit which clinics can vaccinate children against COVID-19.
The vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds will also be given in a smaller dose, which will affect the rollout.
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who is on the board of Pfizer, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the company plans to ship the pediatric vaccine in smaller trays and vials with different color caps to distinguish them from the vaccine for those 12 and older.
The smaller number of doses per shipment could make it easier for pediatric healthcare practices to vaccinate kids.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its materials to help pediatricians prepare for the vaccine rollout.
To encourage parents to have their children vaccinated, the departments of Health and Human Services and Education plan to run a “robust messaging/outreach campaign,” according to The Washington Post.
Some parents may not need much encouragement.
A survey last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about a third of parents plan to have their 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated “right away” after the vaccine is authorized for this age group.
About a third of parents said they would “wait and see,” while one-quarter said they’ll “definitely not” have their child vaccinated.
Nearly half of Black parents surveyed were hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine for their child, compared to one-third of Hispanic parents and around one-quarter of white parents.
Researchers also found that parents who turned to family members, the internet, or healthcare professionals for information about COVID-19 were less hesitant about the vaccine for their child.
“We need to have information available on the internet that’s coming from reliable sources and written in a way that families really get their questions answered,” said study author Dr. Jennifer D. Kusma, a pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and an instructor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
She also thinks pediatricians can help parents make an informed decision about vaccinating their child.
“Let us do the heavy lifting,” Kusma said. “Let us read through all of the research or the documents that come out about the vaccine, so we can be that source of information and answer your questions.”
Flores said because only about a third of parents will rush to get their child vaccinated against COVID-19, this will alleviate some strain on busy pediatric offices.
Many kids fell behind in their regular vaccinations during the pandemic, such as for measles, mumps, and meningitis. So they may be catching up this fall.
In addition, adults, teens, and children are all eligible right now for the flu shot.
“There may be a lot of conflicting interests,” Flores said. “Plus the fact that adults are going to be running around trying to get their [COVID-19] boosters at the same time.”