Anticipating that kids between the ages of 5 and 11 could become eligible for vaccination against COVID-19 as soon as early November, the White House said Wednesday it is working closely with states like Massachusetts to be ready to deliver the jabs within days of the go-ahead.
Nearly 900,000 children in Massachusetts could become eligible for COVID-19 shots in the coming weeks and the state has been planning for months to make the vaccine available through parents' most-trusted sources of information, like schools and pediatricians. The state had also been pressing the federal government to fund the packaging of smaller bundles to make it easier for primary care practices to vaccinate their patients — lobbying that appears to have been successful.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's independent advisory committee meets Oct. 26 to consider approval of vaccination for kids as young as 5 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advisory group does the same on Nov. 2 and 3, the White House said. The Biden administration said the steps outlined Wednesday — including enrolling tens of thousands of pediatricians and pharmacies to give the shots and organizing hundreds of school-based clinics — "mean that we will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final CDC recommendation."
A "major component" of the preparation, the White House said, is working with state and local governments to make sure the vaccine doses make it smoothly from the federal government through state hands and into kids' arms. The Biden administration said it is holding "operational readiness calls with every jurisdiction" to prepare for the next phase of vaccine rollout.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said this summer that the state's approach to vaccinating children is likely to focus on two primary channels of distribution: school-based clinics and pediatrician's offices. The Baker administration is expected to provide an update Thursday when three legislative committees convene a joint oversight hearing on children's COVID-19 testing and vaccination.
At a July oversight hearing, Sudders said the administration was working on ways to put fewer vaccine doses in a single batch so that pediatricians can keep a manageable supply on hand. On Wednesday, the White House said the vaccines for kids will be shipped as 10-dose vials in cartons of 10 vials each for 100 total doses. Past shipments have included cartons of between 25 and 195 vials, often with up to six doses per vial.