White House says about 10% of 5- to 11-year-olds in U.S. already have first Covid shots

A child reacts while receiving a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech at the Smoketown Family Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky, US, November 8, 2021.

John Sherry | Reuters

More than two million children have already received their first dose of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine, just two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized the distribution of the shots to children ages 5 to 11.

“We estimate by the end of the day that 2.6 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 have had their first shot; 2.6 million — that’s about 10% of children,” Jeff Zentes, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters during a briefing. .

The vaccination campaign for children is a critical step in the desired return to “normal” for families and parents, giving them peace of mind to allow their children to participate in extracurricular activities and personal learning without fear of the virus.

The White House quickly launched its campaign to immunize children after the CDC authorized the distribution of the vaccines at the beginning of the month. The CDC’s approval came just days after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval for Pfizer’s vaccine for younger children.

The Pfizer vaccine is given to children in a smaller dose, one-third the dose to adolescents and adults, and is given using smaller needles. The pediatric vaccine is also distributed in different packages to ensure that it does not mix with adult doses.

Pfizer said its smaller pediatric dose is more than 90% effective in preventing symptomatic infections, and the doses have been well tolerated with side effects similar to those experienced by people ages 16 to 25.

Although children are less likely to get seriously ill from Covid, they may develop mild to moderate symptoms. In addition, more than 2,000 children aged 5 to 11 have experienced an inflammatory syndrome, known as MIS-C, a rare but serious side effect of Covid.

CDC Director Rochelle Walinsky told reporters Wednesday that public health authorities are monitoring Covid breakouts in the 5- to 11-year-old, but they need more time to collect data as children for their first and second doses.

However, Walinsky said the CDC expects the shots to provide protection similar to that of teens 12 and older, reducing the risk of hospitalization and death more than tenfold.

As more and more children receive their first vaccinations, vaccination rates are also increasing among the broader population, according to Zients. Eighty percent of Americans 12 years of age or older have had at least one shot of the vaccine, and half of eligible seniors have had their booster shots.

However, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said 62 million Americans who qualify for the injection are still not immunized.

“It’s never too late. Get vaccinated now. Most importantly, if you’ve already been vaccinated six months or more ago and qualify for a shot, get a boost,” Fauci said. “The Israelis have shown that when you reinforce, you reduce the likelihood of infection, disease, or death.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency authorization for older adults and Americans at high risk to receive booster doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. People 18 years of age or older who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are also eligible for boosters.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may grant permission for all adults to receive Pfizer boosters as soon as Thursday, according to the New York Times.

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