Young children began receiving COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday in what was a moment of joy not only for their parents but the kids themselves.
The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a group of immunization and public health scientists from California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, concluded that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective for children aged 5 to 11 on Wednesday.
The workgroup’s decision reinforces the FDA’s authorization of the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, and officially allowed California to start vaccinating young children.
“This expanded eligibility for lifesaving vaccines moves us closer to ending the pandemic, which has taken a heavy toll on the well-being of our kids,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
At an afternoon news conference, President Joe Biden said 20,000 sites nationwide would be available by next week to administer the children’s vaccine, and he pointed out that minors make up one-fourth of the COVID-19 cases in the country.
The president not only urged parents of school-age children to have them vaccinated, but also pushed for those 65 and older who are eligible to get booster shots.
“Vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 and boosters (to) provide additional protection for seniors and others are two major steps forward that are going to accelerate our path out of this pandemic,” Biden said.
In Michigan, some children were vaccinated on the heels of a decision Tuesday night by federal regulators to allow kids ages 5-11 to get the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The decision was applauded by experts in the state.
“The decision to authorize this Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds is another reason for hope,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive, adding: “the decision will help move us forward toward safer classrooms, family gatherings, participation in sports celebrations and all kinds of other milestones.”
Also in the news:
►Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s reigning MVP, tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss Sunday’s marquee game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Rodgers is not vaccinated, and lied to the media about it.
►The National Institutes of Health will sponsor a four-year study to assess the long-term effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their children.
►The World Health Organization granted emergency use authorization to an Indian-made COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, that had been used for months in the country. It is the eighth vaccine to which the WHO has given use authorization.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded 46.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 750,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 248 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 192.9 million Americans — 58.1% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: A study of deer in Iowa that have contracted the coronavirus suggests they could become “a major reservoir host” that allows the virus to mutate and re-enter humans.
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Walgreens, CVS will have kids’ vaccine widely available by weekend
The country’s largest pharmacies, Walgreens and CVS, are already accepting online appointments for children 5 to 11 to get the COVID-19 vaccine following the CDC’s sign-off Tuesday night of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the age group.
Walgreens will begin administering the pediatric doses at thousands of stores nationwide starting Saturday. The first vaccine shipments are scheduled to arrive at some Walgreens locations this week, the company said Wednesday.
CVS will begin administering the vaccine this weekend, spokesperson Joe Goode told USA TODAY. The vaccine will also be available at the offices of pediatricians and primary care doctors, children’s hospitals and clinics at schools.
Vaccines.gov – the one-stop shop federal government website – is expected to soon list the closest available vaccine appointments for children.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is just as important to protect children as other routine immunizations are, and the expanded eligibility will help children stay in school safely and prevent severe illness due to COVID-19,” Kevin Ban, Walgreens’ chief medical officer, said in a statement.
The Biden administration’s distribution program will be “running at full strength” the week of Nov. 8, presidential adviser Jeff Zients said Monday, as it has already ordered enough vaccine to cover all 28 million American children in the age group.
White House works to counter misinformation about kids vaccines
As they enthusiastically welcomed the coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5-11, members of the White House COVID-19 response team made a point Wednesday to tell parents about the importance of the shots, as well as their safety and efficacy.
Most notably, the experts sought to warn parents about what Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called “the wave of misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines that is coming their way.’’
Murthy said the government is trying to counter these bogus claims with outreach efforts involving trusted sources such as doctors, teachers and faith leaders, as well as organizations well known to parents, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Many parents are already seeing inaccurate claims on social media, text threads and in their in-boxes,’’ Murthy said. “Misinformation robs them of (the ability to make informed choices). That’s why I’m asking parents to please seek answers from credible sources, like their doctor, their local hospital, their local health department or the CDC.’’
Fellow team members Drs. Rochelle Walensky and Anthony Fauci underscored that, while older adults are more vulnerable to COVID-19, the virus has infected nearly 2 million children ages 5-11, sending 8,300 of them to a hospital. One-third of those kids required treatment in an ICU.
Now there’s a tool to prevent many of those illnesses.
“Pediatric vaccination has the power to help us achieve healthy, safe and inclusive environments for our children,’’ Walensky said.
— Jorge L. Ortiz
Contributing: The Associated Press