Coronavirus: White House unveils operational plan for COVID-19 vaccines for young kids

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration has unveiled an operational plan to make COVID-19 vaccines available to young children if the shots are approved.

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In a statement released early Thursday, the White House said its plan “will ensure that vaccines ... are readily available for our youngest kids” if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention green-light vaccines for children younger than 5.

“The administration’s vaccination program for America’s youngest children will focus on addressing the specific needs of this age group and their families — recognizing that many parents and guardians will choose to get their kids vaccinated through their pediatrician or primary care doctor,” the statement read. “As always, state and local governments, health care providers, federal pharmacy partners, national and community-based organizations and other entities will be critical to the success of this historic, nationwide effort. And the Administration will continue to work with trusted messengers, including pediatricians, to make a concerted effort to ensure that all families have answers to their questions and know about the importance of getting their children vaccinated.”

As of 6 a.m. EDT Thursday, the Republican Party had not publicly responded to the announcement.

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The White House said it is preparing “for all scenarios, including for the first vaccinations to start as early as the week of June 20.” About 10 million doses have been made available for states, health centers and pharmacies to pre-order, the release said. The administration added that it is focused on providing convenient and equitable access to the shots, as well as ramping up efforts to “build trust among parents and families” through “education and engagement,” according to the release.

“While many parents are eager to vaccinate their youngest children, others have questions,” the release said. “To ensure that parents and families have answers to their questions and information from sources that they trust, [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] will work with a broad range of national organizations to launch a national public education campaign that reaches parents, guardians and families with facts and information that they need to make informed choices for both their youngest and their older children.”

The news came weeks after drugmaker Moderna announced it was seeking approval from the FDA for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 6. Rival Pfizer, meanwhile, is seeking emergency approval of a three-dose series of shots for kids under 5, according to The New York Times. A two-dose Pfizer vaccine is already available for children ages 5 and older.

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As of Wednesday, new COVID-19 cases appeared to be holding steady domestically and declining globally, according to the Times. The U.S. was averaging 111,512 new cases per day, up just 1% from two weeks earlier, the newspaper reported. The worldwide average was 480,544 new cases per day, down 24% from 14 days earlier.

As for fatalities, the U.S. averaged 344 deaths per day – a decrease of 5% from two weeks earlier, the newspaper reported. The global average was 1,460 daily deaths, down 13% from 14 days earlier.

The CDC also reported Wednesday that 66.7% of the U.S. population is considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. About 47% of fully vaccinated residents have received a booster dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the agency said.

Globally, about 65% of people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, compared with just 17.8% of the population in low-income countries, Oxford University’s Our World in Data project reported Thursday.