COVID vaccine for younger kids already being packed, shipped

Published 1:29 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Anticipating a green light from vaccine advisers, the Biden administration is assembling and shipping millions of COVID-19 shots for children ages 5-11, the White House said Monday. The first could go into kids’ arms by midweek.

“As a mother and a physician, I know that parents, caregivers, school staff, and children have been waiting for today’s authorization,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy.”

On Oct. 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to include children 5 to 11 years old. The Pfizer vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age is administered as a two doses primary series given three weeks apart, but is a lower dose than that used for people 12 years old and up. 

According to the Mississippi American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Anita Henderson, the vaccine has proven to be over 90% effective in the 5 to 11 age group. During testing, children showed very similar symptoms as 12 and older vaccinated individuals such as headaches, fatigue and a sore arm.

“The side effect profile looks good and the efficacy profile looks excellent,” said Henderson. “We’re excited about the opportunity to offer this to children as early as next week.”

In the U.S., COVID-19 cases in children 5 to 11 years old age make up 39% of cases in individuals younger than 18 years of age. According to the CDC, approximately 8,300 COVID-19 cases in children in that age range resulted in hospitalization. 

As of Oct. 17, 691 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. in individuals less than 18 years of age, with 146 deaths in the 5 through 11 years age group.

By vaccinating children, the U.S. hopes to head off another coronavirus wave during the cold-weather months when people spend more time indoors and respiratory illnesses can spread more easily. Cases have been declining for weeks, but the virus has repeatedly shown its ability to stage a comeback and more easily transmissible mutations are a persistent threat.

On Tuesday, a special advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met to consider detailed recommendations for administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to younger children. The Food and Drug Administration already cleared the shots, which deliver about one-third of the vaccine given to adults. After CDC advisers make their recommendations, agency director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will give the final order.

Coronavirus Coordinator Jeff Zients said the government has enough of the Pfizer vaccine for all 28 million children in the 5-11 age group. “We’re in great shape on supply,” Zients said during the White House coronavirus briefing. 

The children’s vaccination drive is expected to start later this week and go into full swing by next week. Parents will be able to go to vaccines.gov and filter on vaccines for children 5 to 11 to find a location near them that is offering the shot. 

After the FDA gave its authorization for younger children, the Biden administration asked states, territories and other jurisdictions to place their initial orders. Workers at the drug company and at distribution centers began the process of preparing and packing 15 million doses, said Zients.

“More doses will be packed and shipped and delivered,” he added. “More and more vaccine will come on line as we ramp up.”

The goal is for parents to have a range of options for getting children vaccinated, from pediatricians’ offices to clinics and pharmacies.

Walensky acknowledged both a sense of urgency and concern about getting children vaccinated. She stressed that clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine for children have found it highly effective in preventing serious disease, with no severe adverse reactions in safety and efficacy trials.

“There has been a great deal of anticipation from parents,” Walensky said. “I encourage parents to ask questions.”

Separately, Zients announced that about 70% of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated, while 80% have received at least one vaccine dose. Mississippi has fully vaccinated 55% of the adult population.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 455 more cases of COVID-19, 31 deaths, and 30 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. The state has a total of 505,266 cases and 10,129 deaths, and 1,379,333 persons have been fully vaccinated.

Lafayette County has gained 16 cases of COVID-19. There have been no reports of deaths or LTC facility outbreaks. The county has a total of 8,627 cases, 140 deaths and 199 LTC facility outbreaks.