The White House on Wednesday unveiled its plans to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old, pending authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the coming weeks.
The Biden administration said it has purchased enough vaccines to give shots to all of the country’s 28 million children ages 5 to 11 years old, and have been working with state and local leaders to be ready to distribute the vaccines once they are authorized.
The distribution plan will rely on more than 25,000 pediatricians’ office, community health centers, schools and pharmacies to put parents and children at ease, rather than the mass vaccination sites used in the initial rollout for adults.
The administration said it is also launching a partnership with the Children’s Hospital Association to work with more than 100 children’s hospital systems across the country to set up vaccination sites in November and through the end of the calendar year.
“Parents know and trust children’s hospitals to be there for their children’s medical needs, and these vaccination efforts will be no different. Pediatricians, pediatric specialists, nurses and team members will administer the vaccine to kids in trusted, family-friendly settings that serve kids every day,” according to the fact sheet.
The details come ahead of an Oct. 26 meeting of an FDA advisory panel to discuss authorization for pediatric vaccines. If the panel recommends authorization, an FDA ruling could come in the days after, which would then clear a path for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to make recommendations on a pediatric dose in early November.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said the administration was not trying to get ahead of public health agencies by announcing a distribution plan before any vaccine has been authorized.
“I think the best practice here is to plan ahead so that we can hit the ground running at the time that CDC and FDA make their decision,” Zients said at a briefing Wednesday.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy echoed the need for planning ahead, and said the preparation needs to be in advance of the authorization.
“All these conversations we’re having with community organizations, the logistics that have to be set up with doctors offices and pharmacies. It takes time, and that’s one of the reasons why this planning has to start so early, it can’t wait until a final decision is rendered,” Murthy said.
“Although that final decision is clearly up to the FDA and the CDC,” he added.
According to the White House, the vaccine will have packaging available in smaller configurations that will make it easier for physicians’ offices and other smaller, community-based providers to use.
The vaccine will be stored in 10-dose vials, and packed in cartons of 10 vials each. To keep it from spoiling, the vaccine can be stored for up to 10 weeks at standard refrigeration temperatures and up to six months at ultracold temperatures, according to an administration fact sheet.
The vaccine will also come with all the ancillary supplies that providers need to serve kids, including smaller needles.
The plan will rely heavily on states, tribes and territories to help implement a smooth rollout.
To that end, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing full funding to states to support vaccination operations and outreach — including setting up sites, procuring equipment and supplies to store and administer the vaccine.
FEMA will also provide transportation to and from vaccination sites and will help with public communication like public service announcements and translation services.