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(NEW YORK) — With the approval process underway for young children’s COVID-19 vaccines, the White House is preparing a rollout to doctors’ offices, pharmacies and children’s hospitals across the country.
“If in fact [the Food and Drug Administration] authorizes and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommends, we’re going to immediately launch a comprehensive nationwide effort to ensure that parents can get their youngest kids vaccinated, easily, and do so at locations that they know and they trust,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters on Wednesday.
Two brands of vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — are expected to be available as early as the week of June 21 if the review processes at the FDA and CDC find they are safe and effective for kids under 5. Both companies have said their vaccines are just that and released initial efficacy data. More information will be presented next week to the FDA and CDC.
The administration estimates that 85% of children under the age of 5 live within five miles of a potential vaccination site, another administration official said.
The government opened up orders to states on Friday and has so far received requests for around 2.3 million doses. There were five million doses available for initial orders, and another five million will be available to order soon.
Administration officials cautioned not to read into the underwhelming order numbers and said it has been common over the past two years for them to come in slowly at first.
“I wouldn’t focus on those early numbers. Our experience is that the longer the ordering stays open, the more likely the states come forward,” an official said.
“We’re not too worried or focused on that, we’ll continue to do these outreach,” the official added.
So far, states have ordered 58% of the available Pfizer doses and 34% of the available Moderna doses.
Officials said some jurisdictions had ordered only Moderna, while others ordered only Pfizer. They said they didn’t have an explanation because it was too early in the process.
But, if polling is any indication, it will be an uphill battle to convince parents to vaccinate their young kids. A recent survey from Kaiser Family Foundation found just one in five parents are eager to vaccinate their children right away.
Officials said they planned to lean into existing networks to get vaccine information out to families, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, mom blogs and PTAs, as well as groups specific to communities of color, like the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“We have learned from our previous campaigns, and one of the most important lessons that we’ve learned is that we know who people listen to when making decisions, and there are trusted people in their lives,” a senior administration official said.
“Some of them are doctors, some of them are community leaders,” the official said.
The official said the goal was twofold, both to get the vaccine to convenient places for families and to make sure they have the information they need about the vaccines.
The process to authorize vaccines for the youngest age group begins on Wednesday, when the FDA’s independent panel of advisors meet to review the data and ask questions of the vaccine companies.
Pfizer’s vaccine comes in three doses given in smaller amounts over a longer period of time, while Moderna’s is a two-dose vaccine given in slightly larger amounts over a shorter period.
If the panel approves, the FDA is expected to then authorize within a day or so.
That kicks the process over to the CDC’s group of advisers, who are expected to review the vaccine data on June 17 and 18 before voting. Then, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky can issue a final recommendation for the vaccines and doses can begin being administered.
Vaccines are expected to arrive to clinics and doctors offices the weekend after the FDA and CDC’s advisory committees meet, so long as the FDA issues its authorization for emergency use of one or both vaccines.
The White House then expects vaccines will start to be administered on the Tuesday after the long weekend of the federal holiday Juneteenth.
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