President Biden on Tuesday marked what White House officials billed as the unofficial start of the U.S. campaign to vaccinate children under 5, visiting a site in Washington, D.C., to meet with families and children while that certain vaccines were administered.
‘Finally, some peace of mind,’ Biden said at the White House after the event in remarks celebrating the availability of vaccines, calling it a ‘monumental step forward’ in the country’s response to the pandemic. .
Federal health officials, eager to show the progress the United States has made in controlling fatal coronavirus cases, have worked for weeks to prepare parents and doctors to vaccinate the youngest children, a population of ‘about 20 million adults who waited 18 months after first became eligible for the injections.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last week cleared the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech plans for young children following votes by independent expert panels.
Mr. Biden said he met about 17 families at the Washington vaccination site with children who had already received a vaccine or were about to do so. A federal website, vaccines.gov, was updated Tuesday to show where vaccines could be found, he said.
Arsema Desta, a registered nurse in Washington who helps local pediatric vaccination efforts, appeared with the president at the White House and said vaccines for young children were important “because it allows multigenerational households to ensure that all household members are vaccinated.
The Biden administration has already made at least 10 million doses available to states and health care providers and plans to rely heavily on pediatricians and primary care offices to administer them, as is usually the case in pediatric vaccination campaigns. Pharmacies and community health centers, among other providers, will also vaccinate younger children.
But as of last week’s deadline, only 2.5 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine had been ordered, about half of what the federal government was offering, along with about 1.3 million doses of Moderna, about a quarter of what was on offer.
Dr. Deborah M. Greenhouse, a pediatrician in Columbia, SC, said as of Tuesday afternoon her office was still waiting for about 1,000 doses to arrive. She said the parents she has met so far fall into three categories: those knocking on doors to get vaccinated; those who are interested but need to be consulted; and completely resistant families.
She said the low turnout of children aged 5 to 11 was a “genuine concern” she and her colleagues had, but hoped to overcome with younger children. Only about 37% of children in this age group received at least one dose.
Pediatricians are especially important for families in choosing, she said.
“Once it’s rolled out and you have a lot of early adopter groups, once their kids have gotten the vaccine and there’s more data and bigger numbers, that’s what’s going to attract” families who are waiting to decide, she said.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Biden again warned of a lack of funding for the federal response to the pandemic, which he said could hamper future attempts to call off possible surges. Federal health officials have pleaded for months with lawmakers to provide more money for vaccines and treatments. But negotiations have stalled, even becoming publicly hostile during a Senate hearing last week.
Mr. Biden also appeared to hit Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. State health care providers were allowed to late order shots for young children last week after Florida became the only state to refuse pre-orders, White House officials said. State officials denied reversing their stance and said they maintained a policy of allowing orders after FDA clearance.
“Let’s be clear: elected officials must not get in the way and make it more difficult for parents who want their children to be vaccinated and who want to protect them and those around them,” Biden said. “Now is not the time for politics. This is about allowing parents to do all they can to keep their children safe.