White House ready for ages 5 to 11 COVID vaccines, local preparations underway

Pfizer vaccine for children age 5 to 11 could be cleared for use in the next few weeks and the Biden administration says it's ready.

"We know that millions of parents are waiting for COVID-19 vaccines for kids in this age group," said Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator.

65 million doses have been procured, and the first will begin shipping to providers as soon as formal approval comes from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"These vaccine doses will be shipped with all the supplies needed to vaccinate kids, including smaller needles," added Zients.

The child-size doses are about one-third of the adult strength, and are earmarked for doctor's offices, pharmacies, children's hospitals, and school sites.

Health officials insist questions have been answered on the safety and efficacy of vaccinating the younger age group.  

"The same vaccine technology has proven to be very effective with adults and adolescents," said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.

"It's been tested in carefully run trials over the course of months."

School districts and public health departments are preparing for the roll-out in early November.

"For the most part, I've been hearing a lot of positivity, but of course there are questions and parents are going to be concerned," said Dr. Urmila Shende, Sonoma County's COVID-19 vaccine chief.

Shende is also a pediatrician.

Speaking at a Public Health Department briefing Wednesday afternoon, she acknowledged the unique relationship between kids and COVID-19.

"We know that children are vectors of all diseases," said Shende. "But with COVID they can be minimally symptomatic or without any symptoms at all and yet can pass it on to more vulnerable older people in the family."

It is those families, Shende says, most eager for the new shots.

"Those with chronic medical conditions, because they have been working hard to protect their children all this time and it's exhausting, it's tough, it causes a lot of anxiety."

Delving into younger ages does set the stage for more protest among parents who already resist California school rules requiring vaccination for admission.

Recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nationwide, 1 in 4 parents say they definitely would not vaccinate their five to eleven-year-olds right now.

7% would only do so if required.

One-third want to wait and see, and another third are all for it.

"People have to go at their own pace, and I think our responsibility is to get as much information to people to help them make this important decision," said Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Education Superintendent.

Officials are especially gratified wider vaccination will arrive in time for the holidays when so many people are socializing.

"People are very excited because they've seen what COVID has done to their family members," said Shende.

"We've now had this vaccine for 10 months and seen how safe and effective it's been and the same should apply to children."