The White House said Thursday that COVID-19 vaccinations for children under 5 could begin as soon as June 21, if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes the shots.
“We expect vaccinations will begin in earnest as early as Tuesday, June 21, and really roll on throughout that week,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters.
An FDA advisory committee is scheduled to meet on June 14 and 15 to consider the applications from Pfizer and Moderna, and Jha said a decision on authorization is expected “soon thereafter.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would then also have to sign off.
The comments illustrate that vaccinations for children under 5 could finally be getting close, after many parents have been frustrated by months of delays. Children under 5 are the only age group that still has no vaccine available.
While Jha said it will take some time to ramp up the vaccination program, he expects that “within weeks every parent who wants their child to get vaccinated will be able to get an appointment.”
A larger question is how many parents will want to get their young children vaccinated. While some are eager to do so as soon as possible, vaccination rates have lagged for older children, indicating rates may lag for young children as well.
Only about 30 percent of children 5 to 11 have been vaccinated, according to the CDC.
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After many stops and starts, Pfizer released encouraging data last month showing its vaccine for young children was about 80 percent effective after the third shot. The application had previously been delayed to wait for data from a third dose.
Jha said that 10 million doses will initially be released to states, pharmacies and community health centers.
States can start ordering the vaccines on Friday, but the doses cannot ship until the FDA gives its authorization.