- The Biden administration on Tuesday laid out its plans for vaccinating the roughly 28 million children aged 5 to 11 in the U.S. against the coronavirus, detailing a rollout strategy ahead of expected decisions from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by early next month.
- Should the health agencies decide to open up COVID-19 vaccination to kids, distribution and administration will be channeled through pediatricians' offices, children's hospitals, schools and community clinics, the plan said. Dosing will differ from what's been given to adults, while packaging of the vaccine and the needle used to administer it will be smaller.
- Implementation of the administration's plan, however, depends on the outcome of an upcoming meeting on Tuesday, when FDA advisers will discuss Pfizer and BioNTech's application for emergency authorization of their vaccine in kids. The regulator is expected to rule soon after and advisers to the CDC will meet Nov. 2 and Nov. 3 to discuss specific recommendations for use, if cleared.
The decision to release this plan before any official decisions from the FDA or CDC carries some communication risk for the administration, similar to how it announced plans in August to offer booster shots to all adults by mid-September, only to walk that back after the agencies endorsed more limited use.
However, should Pfizer's shot for kids receive a green light, the administration said it wants to be prepared to "mobilize a comprehensive effort across the public and private sectors."
Pfizer's vaccine, now known as Comirnaty, will have a dose and formula that's specifically tailored to kids. The packaging will be available in smaller configurations to make it easier for physicians and community-based providers to offer the vaccine to kids and their families.
The dose for children is expected to be 10 micrograms, rather than the 30-microgram dose used for everyone else ages 12 and up.
Rollout will also depend heavily on children's hospitals and provider relationships with families. Vaccination clinics will be set up at "doctors' offices, hospitals, pharmacies, community health centers, and school- and community-based sites." In its announcement, the administration highlighted the "critical role" community providers will play in getting children vaccinated, particularly as coronavirus vaccines and associated mandates remain a polarizing issue.
The administration said it will work with over 100 children's hospital systems through the Children's Hospital Association to set up vaccination sites in November and through the end of the calendar year.
While the White House is also planning a national public education campaign, parents have indicated some hesitation to vaccinate their kids in recent polling. According to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation in late September, about a third of parents with a child between ages 5 and 11 said they will "wait and see" how the vaccine is working before getting them a shot.
The FDA's advisory committee is set to meet Tuesday to discuss authorizing Pfizer's vaccine for kids. If they support use in 5- to 11-year-olds, and the FDA follows with an authorization, CDC's advisers could vote on their own recommendation in early November.