A worker with UVA Health moves doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into ultra-cold storage. (Courtesy of UVA Health)
WASHINGTON — Within minutes of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s announcement Friday giving the green light to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11, a massive logistics operation launched to prepare for the final regulatory step.
Some 15 million doses of the vaccine began to move from Pfizer’s freezers to distribution centers, requiring dry ice, tracking labels and specialized shipping containers for their journeys to vaccination sites across the country.
Over the next few days, several million of those doses will arrive at the offices of local pediatricians and family doctors, as well as hospitals, pharmacies and other health centers.
Those logistics are intended to ensure that if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives its approval after a panel of vaccine experts meet Tuesday, vials of the vaccine formulated for kids will be ready to go later this week.
Biden administration officials overseeing the rollout shared more details of that process on Monday, telling reporters that Pfizer vials will be packed and shipped and delivered every day over the next week or so.
“We are planning on some vaccinations towards the end of this week,” said Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, adding that they expect “the program for kids ages 5 through 11 really hitting full strength the week of Nov. 8.”
The number of sites offering the vaccine will increase throughout the month, and will be searchable on vaccines.gov if the CDC grants its approval.
Zients reiterated that the Biden administration has secured enough doses of Pfizer’s pending vaccine to inoculate each of the 28 million children in that age group.
The long-anticipated decision on a COVID-19 vaccine for those younger than 12 will come as the country hit new milestones for vaccines among adults: Federal officials said that as of Monday, 80 percent of adults have received at least one shot against the deadly virus and 70 percent of adults are now fully vaccinated.
Roughly 20 million fully vaccinated Americans also have received a booster dose to increase their protection against infection, hospitalization and death.
As with Pfizer’s shot for teens and adults, the version for children also requires two doses spaced three weeks apart. The dosage for the younger age group is much smaller: 10 micrograms for kids, compared to 30 micrograms for adults.
It had a 90.7 percent efficacy rate in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in a clinical trial of children ages 5 to 11.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, emphasized that efficacy rate during Monday’s briefing, and said she’s “looking forward to the scientific discussion and deliberation that will take place” when the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meets tomorrow.
While kids have been at lower risk of infection and severe complications from the virus, the nearly 100 deaths among 5- to 11-year-olds mean it is one of the top 10 causes of death for that age group.
“For many families, the possibility of vaccines for our children will provide a great deal of comfort with every dose administered,” Walensky said. “Parents should feel comforted not just that their children will be protected, but that this vaccine has gone through the necessary and rigorous evaluation that ensures the vaccine is safe and highly effective.”
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