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Where Can Young Children Get the COVID-19 Vaccine Once It’s Available?

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Photo: Stocksy/ Jimena Roquero
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analyzed data for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine last week. It concluded that the two-dose shot is almost 91 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 cases in children aged 5-11. The agency also says that benefits outweigh vaccine risks in nearly every scenario involving the age group.

This is encouraging news as we inch closer to approval, but as we prepare for potential authorization, you might wonder: where will your little one be able to get the shot? It turns out that there's already a plan in place to ensure that the vaccines will be available to young children. Last week, the Biden administration announced a plethora of steps to make sure the vaccine is accessible.

The administration has purchased enough Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for the 28 million children in the United States, according to a White House fact sheet. This dosage is lower than the typical two-dose regimen and tailored specifically for the age group. These dosages will be available at 25,000 pediatricians and primary care doctors, as well as hundreds of children's hospitals, general hospitals, community-based clinics, and community and rural health centers. The administration says the vaccine will also be available at thousands of pharmacies across the country. Unlike the initial rollout of the vaccine, there will not be any mass vaccination sites.

In addition to increasing accessibility, the Biden Administration plans to "support education and engagement efforts to build the public’s trust." The educational measures ensure that all parents have the “information they need to make informed choices for their families,” the fact sheet says. They will also work with organizations on both the national and local levels, including schools, state and local health departments, faith leaders, and national and community organizations.

In September 2021, Pfizer-BioNTech announced that its Phase 2/3 clinical trial data show a "favorable safety profile and robust neutralizing antibody responses" against COVID-19 in children aged 5 to 11. Over 2,200 participants between 5 to 11 received a lower dose of the typical two-dose regimen and recently submitted FDA  data that shows the vaccine offered protection similar to that of teenagers and young adults.

Childhood vaccinations are necessary because young immune systems are vulnerable to diseases and illnesses, says Elliana Rose, MD. According to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), nearly 6.2 million children have tested positive since the onset of the pandemic. The AAP data suggests that cases are decreasing among children from the sixth consecutive week; however, 131,000 new child covid cases were reported, an extremely high number.

The FDA will hold a public hearing this week to discuss emergency use authorization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could decide by early November. If both agencies approve use, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will become the first COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use among children ages 5-11 years old.

 

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