If cleared, Covid vaccines for children under 5 could be available as early as June 21, a White House official has said.

A senior Biden administration health official, anticipating that federal regulators will soon authorize coronavirus vaccines for children under 5, said Thursday that the first doses could be available as early as June 21 and that States, pharmacies and community health centers could start ordering them. of the Biden administration on Friday.

Dr. Ashish Jha, President Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, shared the timeline during an appearance in the White House briefing room. He warned that the preparations are dependent on the Food and Drug Administration authorizing doses for children six months to four years old and a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No doses will be shipped until FDA and CDC sign off.

“I want to be very clear that I am not here to prejudge the outcome of the process,” Dr Jha said. “But the administration is working hard to plan all sorts of scenarios depending on the outcome.”

The nation’s 18 million children under age 5 are the last group of Americans for whom Covid vaccines are unavailable, and the frustration of many parents is palpable. Now, for the first time, they have a specific, albeit tentative, date.

Dr. Jha said that while it will take time for vaccines to become widely available, the White House expects that “within weeks” of a clearance, “every parent who wants their child to be vaccinated will be able to get an appointment”. He also said he expects some parents to be reluctant.

Earlier this month, the FDA set its own timeline for reviewing requests from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to authorize doses of their Covid-19 vaccines for young children; a decision on the authorization is expected a few days after the meeting of a group of external experts advising the FDA on June 14 and 15.

In making this announcement, Dr. Jha has taken a tricky path. Last summer, Mr Biden created an uproar when he announced that booster shots would be available to many Americans in mid-September pending FDA clearance – only to meet resistance from government leaders. the agency, who said they needed more time to review the data.

But Dr. Jha said it was important for the White House to plan and be transparent about that planning. He said the administration was working closely with local health departments, pediatricians and family physicians, as well as children’s hospitals, and had asked states to distribute the first tranche of doses to “their highest priority sites, including those that serve children and children most at risk”. hardest to reach areas. »

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