Millions of child COVID-19 vaccine doses were shipped across the country less than a week after US health officials approved Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old, White House officials said on Thursday.
While supplies could only be shipped after the vaccines were approved by the Food and Drug Administration — a move that came last Friday — White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha that at least 4 million pediatric COVID vaccine doses have been shipped to around 13,000 pharmacies, doctor’s offices and other partners nationwide.
“To ensure these vaccines get to the families who want them, we have launched comprehensive efforts with trusted partners,” Jha told reporters during a virtual news briefing on Thursday. “These partners include states, local health departments, pediatricians, family doctors, rural and community health centers and pharmacies.”
The administration’s largest federal pharmacy partners are Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart, which have already begun dosing children.
In the US, COVID-19 vaccines were first tested and given to healthcare workers and older adults in late 2020. Teenagers and school-age children have joined in the past year. Currently, around 83% of Americans over the age of five — or about 259 million people — have received at least one vaccination, and federal officials are hoping the recent approval for young children will further push the country toward full vaccination.
Around 18 million young people under the age of 5 are eligible to participate.
But the White House recognizes that some parents may still be reluctant to get their young children vaccinated, especially given disappointing immunization rates — about 30% — among school-age children.
“We also know that many parents have questions,” Jha admitted. “And we want to encourage everyone […] Parents, talk to their doctor, talk to their pediatrician, talk to their GP.”
“We all want to do what is best for our children, and for the safest vaccine and protection against COVID-19, you should vaccinate your child against COVID-19,” added CDC Director Dr. Added Rochelle Walensky. “Young children do not need to have an underlying condition to be at risk for serious illness. In fact, more than half of the children hospitalized with COVID-19 were otherwise healthy and had no underlying medical condition.”
In studies, vaccinated youth developed virus-fighting antibodies as strong as young adults, suggesting the child-sized doses protect against coronavirus infections.
Two doses of Moderna appeared to be only about 40% effective at preventing lighter infections at a time when the Omicron variant was causing most COVID-19 illnesses. Pfizer provided study information that suggested the company saw 80% with its three shots. But the Pfizer data was so limited — and based on such a small number of cases — that experts and federal officials say they don’t think there’s a reliable estimate yet.
Pfizer’s vaccine is for children aged 6 months to 4 years. The dose is one-tenth the adult dose, and three shots are needed. The first two are awarded three weeks apart, the last two at least two months later.
Moderna’s consists of two shots, each a quarter of the adult dose, given to children ages 6 months to 5 years about four weeks apart. The FDA also approved a third dose, at least a month after the second injection, for children with immune disorders that make them more susceptible to serious illness.