Kevin Dietsch/Getty Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator
The COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 is expected to become available in the next few weeks, the White House said on Thursday.
President Biden's coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, shared in a briefing an estimated timeline for when kids ages 6 months to 4 years old around the country could be granted access to their first COVID-19 shot.
In Jha's predictions, according to The New York Times, he said vaccines could be administered as early as June 21,. Pharmacies and community health centers can begin ordering them from the Biden administration on Friday.
"We expect that vaccination will begin in earnest as early as June 21 and really roll on throughout that week," Jha said, NPR reported.
Jha also cautioned that the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers of Disease Control will first need to approve the vaccine for use, CNBC reported. No doses will be sent off until the F.D.A. and the C.D.C. sign off.
"I want to be very clear that I am not here to prejudge the outcome of the process," Dr. Jha said, the Times reported. "But the administration is hard at work planning all sorts of scenarios based on whatever the outcome is."
The administration is set to meet the F.D.A at a June 15 advisory meeting, NPR reported. If all goes well, shipments of the first 10 million doses could start arriving at doctors' offices as soon as the following weekend.
Local health departments, pediatricians and family doctors have been working closely with the administration, Jha said according to the Times, and has asked states to distribute an initial batch of doses to the most vulnerable young patients at children's hospitals and sites in neighborhoods hit the hardest by the pandemic.
Jha said that any parent who wants to vaccinate babies 6 months and older, toddler or child younger than 5 could likely do so within weeks after the shots become available, NPR reported.
LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine
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Last month, the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was found to "elicit a strong immune response" for children under 5 years old.
A preliminary analysis from Pfizer revealed that the COVID vaccine for children 6 months to under 5 years old has an efficacy of 80.3%, which meets "all immunobridging criteria for emergency use authorization." Children under 5 are the only group in the U.S. that have not yet been approved for COVID-19 vaccination.
The company noted that out of 1,678 children who were given three doses, just 10 COVID-19 cases were diagnosed as of April 29.
"The study suggests that a low 3-microgram dose of our vaccine, carefully selected based on tolerability data, provides young children with a high level of protection against the recent COVID-19 strains," Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, said in a statement.
Getty A child receiving a vaccine
Pfizer and BioNTech announced in December that a two-dose regimen did not elicit enough of an immune response in some children under 5, prompting their study of a third dose.
At the time, the companies reported that the two-dose vaccine was effective in children under age 2, similar to those in the 16-24 age bracket. However, children ages 2 through 5 generally did not have the same response.
Vaccine advocates are encouraging the administration to act sooner rather than later.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wrote a letter calling on the Biden administration to step up efforts to get authorization for vaccines for the country's youngest population.
"Hospitalization rates for children under 5 were the highest ever during the omicron surge. While children younger than 5 are less vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 than adults, they can still experience severe and lasting outcomes," Polis said in the letter. "Delays and lack of urgency from the FDA and vaccine developers in authorizing a vaccine for children under 5 are concerning."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in children ages 12 to 15 back in May 2021. The vaccine received the same approval for children ages 5 to 11 six months later in November.