What Is The White House's Plan For Rolling Out The COVID-19 Vaccine For Children?

The White House has announced that eligible children between the ages of 5 and 11 should soon have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. As of this reporting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has only authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines for Americans 12 and up. However, pending authorization from the FDA, roughly 28 million children across the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 11 will have the opportunity to get the vaccine (via CNN).

"We know millions of parents have been waiting for Covid-19 vaccine for kids in this age group. And should the FDA and (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) authorize the vaccine, we will be ready to get shots in arms," White House COVID-19 response director Jeff Zients told reporters at a White House briefing on October 20 (via CNN).

The White House plans to work with hospital systems across the country in partnership with Children's Hospital Association to set up vaccination sites from November through to the end of 2021. CNN also reported that the White House will apply Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) funding to make vaccines available in schools and "community-based" sites.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for children?

In anticipation of COVID-19 vaccines soon becoming available for young children, high-ranking health experts at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement in early September, noting, "It's important that the public recognize that, because young children are still growing and developing, it's critical that thorough and robust clinical trials of adequate size are completed to evaluate the safety and the immune response to a COVID-19 vaccine in this population. Children are not small adults." The statement went on to lay out steps the FDA is taking to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for children. 

Later in September, Pfizer and BioNTech submitted initial data to the FDA for phase 2/3 of its three-phase trial, describing "favorable safety" results and "robust" antibody responses in children aged 5 to 11 years old. "We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population, subject to regulatory authorization, especially as we track the spread of the Delta variant and the substantial threat it poses to children," said Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer. The statement also predicted that data for the other two age cohorts from the trial — children ages 2 to 5 and children ages 6 months to 2 years — will be available before the end of this year.

The highly transmissible delta variant remains a cause for concern as the country enters the colder months and many children have returned to in-person learning. Federal regulators and the CDC will review the safety and effectiveness of administering low doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 years old, with formal approval expected in early November (via NBC News).