Children under 5 could begin receiving Covid-19 vaccine shots in the U.S. as early as June 21 if federal agencies authorize them promptly, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said Thursday, potentially expanding vaccine access to 18 million young children.
The Food and Drug Administration is rapidly reviewing data on Moderna and Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5, Jha said at a press briefing.
Jha said he expected the FDA to decide whether to authorize Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines for young children shortly after the FDA vaccine advisory panel’s June 14-15 meeting.
If the FDA okays one or both vaccines according to the projected timeline, the Biden Administration will be able to begin distributing doses around the U.S. during the June 18-20 long weekend, and if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention follows the FDA’s decision by recommending the vaccines for children under 5, physicians will be able to give children in that age range the shot, Jha said.
The U.S. has an ample supply of both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and will initially make 10 million doses available to states, pharmacies, community health centers and federal entities, Jha said.
What To Watch For
States will be able to place orders for vaccines for children under 5 starting Friday, Jha said. The White House has asked states to distribute the first batches of vaccines to high-priority sites, such as sites with children at risk of severe Covid-19.
What We Don’t Know
The CDC has not announced dates for its next advisory committee meetings at which the agency could take up the question of whether to recommend Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5. However, the CDC plans to announce dates “very soon,” Jha said Thursday.
Modern and Pfizer—manufacturers of the only two mRNA Covid-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S.—have both applied for FDA emergency use authorization for their vaccines for children under 5, citing data from both companies indicating their vaccines produced a strong immune response in young children. Though the coronavirus’ omicron variant is generally less severe than other strains of the virus, the omicron wave in December and January led to a fourfold increase in child hospitalizations. About 87% of children hospitalized with Covid-19 during the omicron wave were unvaccinated, according to a CDC study, suggesting that vaccinating more children could significantly cut down on child hospitalizations. No Covid-19 vaccines are currently approved for children under 5 in the U.S.