Biden’s plan to vaccinate young children ages 5 to 11

WASHINGTON – The coronavirus vaccination campaign for young children in the United States will not be like that of adults. There will be no mass inoculation sites. Paediatricians will be recruited to help work with parents. Even the vials – and the needles to deliver the doses – will be smaller.

Officials in the Biden administration, predicting that regulators will make vaccines available to children aged 5 to 11 in the coming weeks, presented plans on Wednesday ensuring that some 25,000 pediatric or primary care offices, thousands Pharmacies and hundreds of schools and rural health clinics will be ready to administer injections if the vaccine receives federal clearance.

The campaign aims to meet the unique needs of patients largely still in elementary school – and an age group containing many more people than the cohort of adolescents already approved to receive the vaccine – while absorbing the lessons of the roll-out of vaccines to other age groups.

This month, Pfizer and BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency use of their vaccine for 5 to 11 year olds, a move that could help protect more than 28 million people in the states. -United. A meeting to discuss the authorization is scheduled for Tuesday, and an FDA decision could come in the days following, possibly paving the way for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make recommendations on a pediatric dose in early November.

Federal regulators have delayed the decision to authorize Moderna’s vaccine for young people over concerns about cases of rare heart problems. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have expanded the scope of their trials for children aged 5 to 11 as a precautionary measure to detect any rare side effects.

In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the two vaccines may have caused myocarditis and pericarditis in more than 1,200 Americans, including about 500 who were under the age of 30.

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle, while pericarditis is the inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart. Symptoms usually appeared within two weeks and were more common in young men and boys.

If Pfizer vaccine approval is accepted, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse “full funding to states to support immunizations and awareness,” said Sonya Bernstein, senior policy advisor for the team. Covid-19 intervention from the White House.

This support would involve setting up the site and providing logistical assistance, including transport to and from vaccination sites. Funds will also be available to provide call center support, create public service announcements and match vaccine providers with school districts.

By crafting a distribution plan before regulators agree, the White House is exposing itself to criticism that it is putting the cart before the horse. But administration officials say they want to make sure all barriers to access are removed if the children are approved to receive the vaccine in the coming weeks. (Ms Bernstein pointed out that the approval process was independent of administration plans.)

“We know access is going to be critical here,” Ms. Bernstein said, adding that the administration has been looking in recent weeks at ways to provide a “child-friendly experience that ensures we get shots with confidence. of services in a way that makes parents feel comfortable.

The process will not look like it was when other groups in the United States were first allowed to receive vaccines. The 5 to 11 age group, with 28 million children, is much larger than the 12 to 15 age group, with 17 million, who became eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in May.

But the younger group will not be expected to line up at mass vaccination sites: “We don’t want lines of children,” said Bernstein, who pointed out that children tend to be more sensitive patients. (Read: They’re crying.) Pediatrician’s offices, children’s hospitals, and drugstores with in-store clinics will be the preferred options.

“Children have different needs than adults, and our operational planning is designed to meet these specific needs, including offering vaccinations and settings that parents and children are familiar with,” the coordinator of Mr Biden’s coronavirus response, Jeffrey Zients, on Wednesday. officials announced the plan. “We will be ready, pending the decision of the FDA and the CDC.”

What to know about Covid-19 booster injections

The FDA has cleared booster shots for a select group of people who received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months previously. This group includes: vaccinated people who are 65 years of age or older or living in long-term care facilities; adults who are at high risk for severe Covid-19 due to an underlying medical problem; healthcare workers and others whose jobs put them at risk. People with weakened immune systems may receive a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the second injection.

The CDC said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and some disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.

The FDA has cleared the boosters for workers whose work puts them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The CDC says this group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agricultural workers; manufacturing workers; correctional workers; workers in the US postal service; public transport workers; employees of grocery stores.

At this time, this is not recommended. Recipients of Pfizer vaccine are advised to be vaccinated by Pfizer, and recipients of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson should wait until booster doses from these manufacturers are approved. The FDA plans to allow Americans to receive a different vaccine than the one they originally received as a booster. The “mix and match” approach may be approved once boosters for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients are authorized.

Yes. The CDC says the Covid vaccine can be given regardless of the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy websites allow people to schedule a flu shot along with a booster dose.

Zients, advancing cautiously on a politically sensitive topic, said on Wednesday that the administration would support the state’s coronavirus vaccine mandates for children.

“We support states and school districts to take action to ensure that all eligible people get immunized,” he said, “but again, these decisions need to be made at the national and local level. “

The needles that deliver the vaccine and the vials that contain it will need to be smaller for easier storage. (The Pfizer dose for children aged 5 to 11 should be 10 micrograms, rather than the 30 microgram dose used for children 12 years of age and older.) Children’s vials can be stored for up to 10 weeks at standard refrigeration temperatures, and six months at cooler temperatures, according to guidelines from administration officials released Wednesday.

Building on what worked when vaccines were opened up to adolescents, whose vaccinations typically require parental consent, authorities also rely heavily on local health experts, who they say have more confidence. in their communities and can help reach children at high risk. “Children’s hospitals and health systems will be a critical part of our efforts to advance equity and ensure access to our country’s most at-risk children, including those suffering from obesity, diabetes, d ‘asthma or immunosuppression,’ the guide says.

But while the administration aims to eliminate the kinds of availability and efficacy issues that hampered the initial vaccination process, reluctance has persisted among parents.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released at the end of September, only about one in three parents of children aged 5 to 11 planned to have their children vaccinated “right away” once a vaccine is cleared. Another third said they wanted to “wait and see” how the vaccine affected children. But that same poll showed that reluctance of parents of teens had waned in the months since vaccines became available, and nearly half of parents between those 12 and 17 said their teens had received at least dose.

Hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 are rare among children, according to data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but experts point out that children are still susceptible to severe or long-term versions of the disease.

“Of course, adults are going to have much more serious illnesses, but that doesn’t mean children aren’t as affected,” said Dr Flor Munoz-Rivas, associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. “Children are usually vectors for the transmission of the virus,” she said, and preventing them from becoming infected “could potentially also have some effect” by slowing the spread of the virus.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reports.

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