“There are kids in second grade who have never experienced a normal school year,” Walensky said. “Pediatric vaccination has the power to help us change that.”
Thousands of pediatricians requested doses in advance and Pfizer began shipments shortly after the decision on Friday by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize emergency use. Pfizer said it expects to make more than 19,000 shipments totaling 11 million doses in the coming days and millions more will be available weekly.
The vaccine — one-third the dose for adolescents and adults and administered with smaller needles — requires two doses over three weeks, plus two more weeks to achieve full immunity. That means kids who get vaccinated now will be protected come Christmas.
“It’s a big milestone for kids ages 5 to 11 because that’s almost 40% of those under the age of 18,” said Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in Decatur, Ga., who received her first shipment Tuesday morning. .
Many localities were planning mass vaccination events in the coming days, and while many pediatric practices expected strong demand at least initially, nearly two-thirds of parents interviewed by the Kaiser Family Foundation said they would wait or not vaccinate their children.
Walensky said he understood the parents’ fears, but said, “We’ve taken the time to get it right.” He said clinical trials in children showed no “serious incidents” associated with the vaccine.