Youngest children could get Covid shots in late June, White House says

The nation's 18 million children younger than 5 are the last group of Americans for whom Covid vaccines are not available. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - A top federal health official, anticipating that regulators will soon authorise coronavirus vaccines for children younger than 5, said on Thursday (June 2) that the first doses could be administered as early as June 21, and that states, pharmacies and community health centres can begin ordering them from the Biden administration on Friday (June 3).

Dr Ashish Jha, President Joe Biden's coronavirus response coordinator, shared the timeline during a White House briefing.

He cautioned that preparations were contingent on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorisation of doses for children 6 months through 4 years old, and a recommendation from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). No doses will be shipped until the FDA and the CDC sign off.

The nation's 18 million children younger than 5 are the last group of Americans for whom Covid vaccines are not available.

But a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that just 18 per cent of parents with children younger than 5 said they would get them vaccinated right away; 38 per cent put themselves in the "wait and see" category, and 27 per cent said they would "definitely not" get their children vaccinated.

Late last month, the FDA laid out its tentative timetable for considering applications from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to authorise doses of their Covid-19 vaccines for young children. A decision on authorisation could come soon after an outside panel of experts advising the FDA meets to discuss it June 15.

If the FDA grants emergency authorisation to one or both vaccines, a CDC expert panel will convene soon after to make recommendations about how they should be used. If the process is complete by June 17, Dr Jha said, doses could ship over the three-day weekend that includes the Juneteenth federal holiday, and be available June 21.

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech said preliminary findings from a clinical trial of children younger than 5 showed that three doses of their coronavirus vaccine had been 80 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic infection in a subset of the 1,678 trial participants who were 6 months through 4 years old.

Pfizer said on Wednesday (June 1) that it had completed its application for emergency authorisation. In April, Moderna asked the FDA to authorise its coronavirus vaccine for children younger than 6. Moderna's vaccine would be given in two doses, four weeks apart.

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