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Parents Need To Be Patient To Get COVID Vaccines For Children: Coronavirus Updates: NPR


A syringe is filled with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. While the vaccine is now licensed for children aged 5 to 11, it may take several weeks for the vaccines to become widely available.

Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images


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Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

Parents Need To Be Patient To Get COVID Vaccines For Children: Coronavirus Updates: NPR

A syringe is filled with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. While the vaccine is now licensed for children aged 5 to 11, it may take several weeks for the vaccines to become widely available.

Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

Minutes after the Food and Drug Administration’s decision on Friday to clear the low-dose Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, teams began packaging the vaccines to ship. The vials are packaged with syringes, dry ice, and tracking labels and are loaded into shipping containers specifically designed for the pediatric vaccine.

But a senior White House official warned that parents shouldn’t expect to be able to get their children vaccinated the next day if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine, as it should be on Tuesday. Patience may be required, as it may take several days before injections are readily available.

“We are talking about a specialized vaccine for children,” said Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, in an exclusive interview with NPR. “We are working hard, planning the logistics and making sure vaccines are available at tens of thousands of sites that parents and children know and trust.”

The process isn’t as straightforward as opening drugstore appointments, as it was when adult reminders were allowed in recent weeks. Young children will receive a lower dose delivered via smaller needles for the smaller arms. It’s a different wording, in a different package – a new program for a new population that requires more sensitivity.

“We urge parents to prepare and make a plan, and the program will be fully operational the week of November 8,” Zients said.

Last week, the administration asked states, pharmacies and pediatricians to place vaccine dose orders, and the administration and Pfizer are now in the process of pre-positioning supplies.

“Our goal is to pre-position as many vaccines as possible, as we await the CDC’s decision in the middle of next week,” Zients said.

Zients said vaccines are shipped to 20,000 locations in the United States and the packaging and shipping process will take time. He said that pending the CDC’s decision, parents should be able to start finding appointments by the end of next week (locations offering vaccines for children will be listed on vaccines.gov).

“While we hope to see the first group of children start getting vaccinated by the end of next week, the bulk of the vaccines will be in their locations by the week of November 8,” Zients said. “By then, the program will ramp up to its full strength.”

In the United States, 28 million children are between the ages of 5 and 11 and the White House is starting with 15 million doses of the vaccine, with more to come. He has ordered enough doses to immunize all eligible children in the country, although he doesn’t expect all of them to roll up their sleeves.

While some parents will rush to vaccinate their elementary-age children as quickly as possible, the Biden administration predicts that many others will have questions or will not want to start. Zients said the government will launch a paid advertising campaign, as well as efforts to spread the word through trusted local leaders and doctors and nationally known figures.

The FDA has granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years based on a study of approximately 4,700 children. The vaccine has been shown to be 90.7% safe and effective in preventing symptomatic illnesses.

A key part of the Biden administration’s plan to immunize children is to have children immunized in places where parents already take their children for health care: pediatricians and family doctors, children’s hospitals and neighborhood pharmacies. There will also be pop-up and mobile clinics and possibly school clinics, in the evenings or on weekends, when families are free.

For pediatrician Nicole Baldwin, this moment is both exciting and intimidating. “We love these children and we want to immunize them,” she said, adding that a pediatrician’s office will be a familiar place for young patients who already come for well visits and other childhood vaccines.

“Pediatric offices are so short and overwhelmed right now,” said Baldwin, whose practice is located in Ohio. “How do we get these patients in? How do we do these clinics? How do we have time to document all of this? So I think it needs to be done and pediatricians need a little grace.”

Allison Aubrey of NPR contributed reporting for this story.

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