Covid-19 vaccination shots for the youngest Americans could begin as soon as June 21, the White House said on Thursday.
The vaccination program for children younger than 5 would come more than 18 months after vaccines were first authorized for adults.
Dr. Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus response coordinator, laid out a timeline for authorization of vaccines for children younger than 5 at an afternoon news briefing. The US Food and Drug Administration's vaccine advisers will review data submitted by Pfizer and Moderna during a meeting on June 14-15, and the agency will then decide whether to authorize the vaccines for emergency use.
"We expect an FDA decision shortly after the advisory committee meeting, and we look forward to this process playing out," Jha said. "The FDA authorization is not the final step in the process before vaccinations can begin. CDC must also issue its recommendations. If the FDA authorizes the vaccines, the CDC will have its advisory committee meetings and ultimately the CDC director will make her recommendations."
Jha said the White House was not going to "prejudge the outcome of the process," but was already "hard at work" planning for the process to play out.
"We've been working very closely with states with local health departments, with pediatricians, family physicians, other health care providers and pharmacies to get ready," he said, adding the administration expected "the vast majority" of kids would be "vaccinated by their primary care providers."
The good news, Jha said, is the US has "plenty of supply" of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to start the vaccination program for kids younger than 5, and 10 million additional doses would be made available for states, pharmacies, community health centers and federal entities to order starting this Friday. Jha said those doses were expected to start arriving at their destinations after the long Juneteenth weekend.
The Monday after the FDA advisory committee meeting is June 20, when the US celebrates Juneteenth, so Jha said the White House expects "that vaccinations will begin in earnest as early as Tuesday, June 21." He noted it will take some time for the program to ramp up and for vaccines to be more widely available.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated when the first Covid-19 vaccines were made available to adults. They were authorized 18 months ago.
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