White House tells states to prepare for Covid vaccinations in young children

WASHINGTON — The White House told governors to start preparing to vaccinate children as young as 5 by early next month in anticipation of clearance of Pfizer's Covid vaccine for the age group in the coming weeks, a White House official said.

The Biden administration has purchased 65 million pediatric doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, enough to vaccinate the estimated 28 million children who would be eligible should the Food and Drug Administration approve Pfizer's request to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11, said an official of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Pfizer and BioNTech said this month that they had submitted an emergency request for authorization for children ages 5 to 11, and an FDA advisory committee plans to meet to discuss the request Oct. 26. The vaccine doses for the youngest age group wouldn't be interchangeable with those for adults, who have different dosage and dilution requirements.

In anticipation of the FDA green light, the administration has begun planning for the vaccination effort with states, pharmacies and medical groups. The administration told providers in a planning document last week that the vaccine for children will be delivered to thousands of sites within a week of FDA authorization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been working to enroll providers in the Covid vaccination program, and HHS is planning a messaging and outreach campaign to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated, the HHS official said.

Vaccinations among children 12 and older have lagged those of adults, with just 55 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds having been at least partly vaccinated, along with 62 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds. That compares to more than 70 percent of adults over 40.