Biden Team Announces Plan to Vaccinate Ages 5-11; School Mandates Will Be Made at State/Local Level

Susan Jones | October 20, 2021 | 10:50am EDT
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The on approved the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15 in May; Approval for ages 5-11 is expected in a few weeks. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
The on approved the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15 in May; Approval for ages 5-11 is expected in a few weeks. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

( - As soon as federal health authorities approve the Pfizer vaccine for young children -- a decision that hasn't been made yet -- the White House is ready to get shots in arms, President Biden's COVID team announced on Wednesday.

As of October 13, CDC counts 513 COVID-involved deaths among children 0-17 since the pandemic started. That's 0.071 percent of the total 712,930 people who have died of COVID complications since January 2020.

Nevertheless, the Biden administration made it clear this morning that the push is on to vaccinate young children:

"We expect the FDA and the CDC's decision on Pfizer's COVID 19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 in the next couple of weeks," White House COVID coordinator Jeff Zients told a news conference. "We know millions of parents have been waiting for COVID 19 vaccine for kids in this age group. And should the FDA and CDC authorize the vaccine, we will be ready to get shots in arms."

Zients said the goal is to "vaccinate as many kids 5 to 11 years of age as possible." To accomplish that goal, the White House will be offering free COVID shots in "settings that parents and kids are familiar with and trust." That includes on-site clinics in schools as well as pediatricians' offices, local pharmacies, and health clinics.

"And to make vaccinating kids even more convenient, we'll work with state and local education leaders to bring vaccination clinics directly to schools, including by matching pharmacies and other vaccine providers with school districts to set up on-site clinics," Zients said.

"By sending vaccines to pediatricians, pharmacies, community health centers and rural health centers; working with children's hospitals to host vaccination sites, including on nights and weekends; helping schools stand up vaccination clinics; and deploying mobile clinics to meet families where they are, we will ensure that vaccinations for kids ages 5 through 11 are easy, convenient and accessible to every family."

It's not yet clear if vaccine mandates will apply to young children as a condition of attending school. Asked about that, Zients said, "that's really about schools."

He noted that "school vaccination requirements have been around for decades, and those decisions should be made at the state and local level. We know that in general, requirements work, and we support states and school districts taking actions to ensure that everyone who's eligible get vaccinated, but again, those decisions should be made at the state and local level."

Zients, clearly anticipating federal approval, said the Biden administration has secured enough vaccine supply to vaccinate every child in this country, and "as soon as the vaccine is authorized by the FDA, we will begin shipping millions of doses nationwide."

Asked if they're jumping the gun by announcing vaccine rollout plans before federal health authorities are finished evaluating the data on child vaccinations, Zients said the "best practice here is to plan ahead so we can hit the ground running." He said vaccine approval will be driven by the "science."

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, anticipating resistance (he used the word "questions"), told the news conference that the Biden administration plans to equip parents with "clear, accurate and science-based information from sources they trust."

“We're preparing a national public education campaign that will meet parents where they are with information about the vaccines,” Murthy said. “We will work with schools to send letters to parents.  We will convene doctors and health clinics and support them in delivering vaccination as soon as they have conversations with families.

“We will provide faith leaders with materials and toolkits that they can distribute to their congregations. We will create forums for parents to ask questions. to health experts. And with all of this, we will make sure that we are reaching parents in their language..."

No one asked about myocarditis, a rare heart inflammation that has occurred "especially in male adolescents and young adults" after the mRNA COVID vaccination.

According to the CDC's own website:

CDC and its partners are actively monitoring reports of myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination. Active monitoring includes reviewing data and medical records and evaluating the relationship to COVID-19 vaccination.

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. In both cases, the body’s immune system causes inflammation in response to an infection or some other trigger. Seek medical care if you or your child have symptoms of these conditions within a week after COVID-19 vaccination.

In a section titled, "What You Need to Know," CDC says, "Cases of myocarditis reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) have occurred," as follows:

-- After mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), especially in male adolescents and young adults,

-- More often after the second dose

-- Usually within several days after vaccination

-- Most patients with myocarditis or pericarditis who received care responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly.

-- Patients can usually return to their normal daily activities after their symptoms improve. Those who have been diagnosed with myocarditis should consult with their cardiologist (heart doctor) about return to exercise or sports. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

CDC says both myocarditis and pericarditis have the following symptoms: Chest pain, shortness of breath, feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart. "Seek medical care if you or your child have any of these symptoms, especially if it’s within a week after COVID-19 vaccination," the CDC says.

CDC, however, urges that children "aged 12 years and older get vaccinated for COVID-19. The known risks of COVID-19 illness and its related, possibly severe complications, such as long-term health problems, hospitalization, and even death, far outweigh the potential risks of having a rare adverse reaction to vaccination, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis."

The same recommendation is expected to apply to children 5-11, once the FDA and CDC approve vaccination for that age group.

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