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White House details COVID-19 vaccine plan for children ages 5 to 11 years old

The Biden Administration said it has secured enough supply to vaccinate 28 million children between the ages of 5 to 11 years old who would become eligible for COVID-19 vaccination if authorization is given.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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The White House on Oct. 20 unveiled its plans to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 years old, pending Food and Drug Administration authorization, according to a CNN report.

The Biden administration said it has secured enough vaccine supply to vaccinate the 28 million children between the ages of 5 to 11 years old who would become eligible for vaccination if the vaccine is authorized for that age group.

In addition, the administration will help equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of community health centers and rural health clinics, as well as tens of thousands of pharmacies to administer the shots.

"Today the Biden administration is announcing a plan to ensure that, if a vaccine is authorized for children ages 5 to 11 years old, it is quickly distributed and made conveniently and equitably available to families across the country," the White House said in a news release.

The administration also is launching a partnership with the Children's Hospital Association "to work with over 100 children's hospital systems across the country to set up vaccination sites in November and through the end of the calendar year," the White House said.

[Read more: Pharmacy chains offering COVID-19 vaccine to adolescents]

The administration also plans to help make vaccination available at school and other "community-based sites" with help from Federal Emergency Management Agency funding.

The Department of Health and Human Services will carry out a national public education campaign "to reach parents and guardians with accurate and culturally responsive information about the vaccine and the risks that COVID-19 poses to children."

Vaccine advisers to the FDA are scheduled to meet next week to consider Pfizer's request to authorize its vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 years old.

[Read more: Retailers begin offering Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots]

If authorized, this would be the first COVID-19 vaccine for younger children. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is currently approved for people age 16 years old and older and has emergency authorization for children ages 12 to 15 years old.

The National Association of Chain Drugs Stores and the American Pharmacists Association welcomed the Biden administration’s announcement of operational planning for COVID vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11 years old. 

“The newly announced plan would help ensure that eligible individuals can equitably and efficiently access COVID vaccines at local pharmacies in the days following a CDC recommendation," NACDS said.

“We are extremely supportive of the thoughtful plan that the Biden administration has laid out to help ensure that the nation’s children can quickly and conveniently be vaccinated and protected against the COVID virus,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. “These important planning actions by the federal government will help ensure that pharmacies — the most accessible healthcare destinations in the country — are ready to continue to meet the needs of the American public when the time comes and when the science confirms that COVID vaccines for that age group are safe and effective."

Anderson continued, "We thank the Biden administration for their ongoing collaboration and leadership, and for continued dialogue surrounding NACDS’ recommendations for pre-planning so that systems and operations within the pharmacy setting are prepped and equipped as more populations become eligible for COVID vaccines.

“Pharmacies remain critical access points in the ongoing vaccination effort and, as the 2021-2022 flu season persists, pharmacies continue to meet the nation’s preventive care vaccination needs, all in one visit. Thanks to the federal government’s proactive planning efforts, pharmacies will stand ready to provide vital access to COVID vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 — when authorized and recommended to do so.”

NACDS noted that for children and adolescents aged 3 to 18 years old, the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act empowers pharmacists in all 50 states to order and administer all Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices-recommended routine and catch-up vaccinations, and for those aged 3 years old and older, COVID-19 vaccinations. The PREP Act also authorizes pharmacy technicians and interns to administer these vaccinations to the same populations.

NACDS pointed out that "from the very beginning NACDS has worked closely with federal and state governments on the COVID response and pharmacies’ critical role in it, communicating to these government decision-makers what is needed from operations to public messaging and more. Most recently, NACDS and Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security released a health equity report that describes pharmacies’ success before and during the COVID pandemic in confronting health inequities and disparities, as well as issues recommendations for legislative solutions that will help further progress in this critical area."

The American Pharmacists Association also voiced strong support for the Biden administration’s efforts to implement a comprehensive plan to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11 years old against COVID-19.

"After authorization from the FDA and CDC, it will take everyone in the immunization neighborhood to get the job done — pharmacists, pharmacy interns, pharmacy technicians, public health, physicians, nurses and other trusted community stakeholders. The vaccines are safe and effective, and the data clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are occurring among the unvaccinated," APhA said.

"From the very beginning of this outbreak, pharmacists, pharmacy interns and pharmacy technicians have been heroic in their work, serving the needs of their communities and their patients despite unprecedented challenges. It is critical that both the public and private sectors devote the resources necessary to adequately and safely staff this enhanced campaign —the health of America depends on it," APhA said.