The US Is Getting Ready to Start Vaccinating Kids Ages 5–11 Against COVID-19—Here's How

The plan, pending vaccine approval from both the FDA and CDC, will help immunize the approximately 28 million children in the US in that age group.

If you've been waiting for news on a kids' COVID vaccine, you might at least take comfort in the newest information that dropped today: Plenty of doses and appropriate-sized needles are ready for distribution as soon as the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) green light the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

White House officials announced Wednesday morning that preparations are underway to ensure that vials of the vaccine are available nationwide—and that there are enough health care providers to administer those jabs—if and when a vaccine is approved.

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The FDA's decision on Pfizer's COVID19 vaccine for these youngster is expected in the next couple of weeks, Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator said during an October 20 media briefing.

"We know millions of parents have been waiting for COVID-19 vaccine for kids in this age group, and should the FDA and CDC authorize the vaccine, we will be ready to get shots in arms," said Zients.

Here's what parents and guardians may want to know about plans for kids' COVID vaccinations.

When will a COVID vaccine be approved for children 5-11?

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced in late September that data had been submitted to the FDA from its phase 2/3 vaccine trial in children ages 5 to under 12. Pfizer confirmed in a subsequent tweet that the companies had officially submitted a request for emergency use authorization of the vaccine.

The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, a panel of scientists in immunology, virology, and related fields, is slated to meet on October 26 to review the trial data.

But be aware that there are a few other steps before the vaccine makes its way to pharmacies, clinics, and other vaccine distribution sites. Based on the committee's recommendation, the FDA would decide whether to grant emergency use of the vaccine. After that, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine panel must conduct its own review—set to take place on November 2–3, per The Associated Press—before CDC issues guidance on the vaccine's administration.

What's being done to prepare for a vaccine for kids 5–11?

The operational plan unveiled by members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing covers several aspects of ensuring that shots-in-kids-arms goes as smoothly as possible.

The Biden administration has been working closely with state governors, pediatricians, pharmacies, rural health centers, and other vaccine providers to ensure that vaccinations for kids are "available, easy, and convenient," Zients said.

As for supply, Zients noted that the government has secured enough doses to vaccinate every child in the US ages 5 to 11—some 28 million kids. As soon as the vaccine is authorized by the FDA, the government will begin shipping the first 15 million doses nationwide, with millions more in the following weeks, he said.

Those vaccine doses will be shipped along with age-appropriate supplies for delivering the shots, including smaller needles, he said.

Where can my child get a vaccine?

The government's operational planning is geared to meet kids' specific needs, and that includes offering vaccinations "in settings that parents and kids are familiar with and trust," Zients said.

To date, according to Zients, more than 25,000 pediatricians, family doctors, and other primary care providers have been lined up to administer the vaccines. In addition, tens of thousands of local pharmacies and hundreds of community health and rural health centers across the country will offer kids' COVID vaccines, he said.

You can also expect to see vaccine clinics to pop up at more than 100 children's hospitals across the country, as well as community vaccination events with evening and weekend hours, he added.

"And to make vaccinating kids even more convenient, we'll work with state and local education leaders to bring vaccination clinics directly to schools," said Zients.

Why is child vaccination important?

Months ago, you might have heard people say kids aren't impacted by COVID, but in the face of the Delta variant (which now accounts for 99% of sequences cases of the virus in the US) that's not true. Anthony Fauci, MD, President Biden's chief adviser on COVID, told reporters during the briefing that a recent paper suggest that kids are quite capable of getting it and spreading it to other people.

"In the era of Delta, children get infected as readily as adults do, and they transmit the infection as readily as adults do," he said. "We may not appreciate that because about 50% of the infections in children are asymptomatic."

Efforts to vaccinate the nation's 28 million 5-to-11-year-olds "would play a major role in diminishing the spread of infection in the community.," Dr. Fauci noted. "That's one of the reasons why we want to do as best we can to get those children from 5 to 11 vaccinated."

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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