WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said they’re planning to roll out vaccines for young children and increase the availability of at-home COVID-19 tests in a briefing on Wednesday.
“The bottom line is that we will be ready immediately following FDA and CDC’s decisions so that parents can get their kids vaccinated quickly, easily and conveniently,” said Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.
An expert panel advising the Food and Drug Administration issued its anticipated endorsement of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 through 11 on Tuesday afternoon. Their decision isn’t binding, but the FDA is expected to follow through with authorization in the coming days.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet next week, paving the way for a full authorization and recommendation by early November.
“Upon FDA authorization of the vaccine, millions of doses will be shipped immediately to tens of thousands of pediatricians, family doctors, children’s hospitals, community health centers, rural health clinics and pharmacies — providers parents and kids know and trust,” Zients said.
Though children are generally at lower risk for severe infection, 8,300 children ages 5 through 11 have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic, and nearly 100 have died.
That’s why CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stressed the importance of surrounding children with vaccinated adults, as well as taking other preventative measures like wearing masks in schools and indoor areas, avoiding crowds and washing hands frequently.
The FDA authorized another over-the-counter COVID test this week, adding to the growing list of available at-home tests. Zients said the administration is on track to make 200 million rapid at-home tests available each month, starting in December.
Over-the-counter tests can now be sold in single-test packs rather than double-test packs, making tests “more affordable and accessible,” Zients said. The National Institutes of Health is also investing $70 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan to support FDA authorization of more at-home tests.
“Together, these actions will benefit American consumers by increasing at-home testing options, adding to the number of tests on shelves and reducing prices,” Zients said.
Asked about the accuracy of at-home tests, Zients said antigen tests are highly reliable, but anyone with a positive result is encouraged to seek a PCR test as well.
Dr. Walensky said that a substantial decrease in COVID cases shows the country is “heading in the right direction,” but added it’s important to “remain vigilant heading into the colder, drier winter months.”
Moderna announced on Monday that their vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 6 through 11, though they have yet to submit their results to the FDA.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, also said that studies are underway for both Pfizer and Moderna in testing a vaccine for children under the age of 5.
“We will be able to answer the question I believe within a reasonable period of time,” Fauci said.