Covid vaccines for kids under 5 are set to begin in US this month

Children under age 5 are expected to be able to receive Covid-19 vaccines as soon as the week of June 21, President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 czar said, if regulators ultimately authorize the shots.

“We expect that vaccinations will begin in earnest as early as Tuesday, June 21, and really roll on throughout that week,” Ashish Jha said at a White House briefing Thursday.

“Our expectation is that within weeks, every parent who wants their child to get vaccinated will be able to get an appointment,” he said.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel will meet June 15 to consider whether to clear vaccines by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE for use in younger children. The FDA will then make its own decision, followed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Doses can be shipped once FDA clears the shots and can be administered after the CDC issues its guidance.

States will be able to begin ordering doses on Friday, Jha said.

Moderna is seeking authorization for ages 6 months through 5 years; Pfizer-BioNTech is seeking to expand its existing approval, for children ages 5 and up, to as young as 6 months.

The White House continues to call on Congress to pass a new round of pandemic funding, warning that the government will otherwise run out of vaccines and treatments and also risks a collapse of Covid-19 test production.

The White House sought $22.5 billion, but lawmakers have struggled to agree to even half as much. Republicans in April blocked a Senate deal for $10 billion. Jha has said the administration is looking at programs it could claw back to come up with money to buy vaccines—particularly an expected new generation designed to boost protection against the Omicron variant and its subvariants.

Recorded Covid cases in the US have leveled off again after rising through April and most of May, CDC data show.

The US is seeing an average of just over 100,000 cases a day, well above levels seen in March but well below highs set in the Omicron wave early this year. Hospitalizations—a lagging indicator—are rising, up 6.4 percent from the previous week, the data show.

About 83 percent of the eligible US population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while nearly have of those eligible have also gotten at least one booster.

Image credits: AP/Nam Y. Huh

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