By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The United States of America has seen a steady rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine since it was first administered earlier this year. According to the White House, 189 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and that number could soon increase.
Earlier this week, the White House released its potential operational plan for vaccine rollout among children ages 5-11. This plan includes procuring enough vaccines for the number of children in the age range and working with trusted local voices to share information.
This plan is in response to the Food and Drug Administration’s independent advisory meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 26 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent advisory committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 2 and Wednesday, Nov. 3.
The topic of these meetings will be the potential authorization of the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine for 5-11 years old.
There are about 28 million kids who fall into that age range, Dr. Cameron Webb, a member of the White House COVID-19 Response Team, said in an interview.
“That’s a lot of people who could potentially be protected against this virus,” Webb said. “And that’s what this conversation has consistently been about, finding more ways to make sure everybody has the protection they need.”
He continued, “If it is authorized then I think we can have even more of our communities protected and fewer folks who can contact the virus, get sick end up hospitalized or pass on to other people as well.”
Webb noted that while severe cases of COVID- 19 among children are lower, one severe case is one too many. The virus is indiscriminate, he said, a healthy person of any age could contract the virus and pass away from it.
As COVID-19 remains a relatively new virus, research is still being conducted on the lingering symptoms. Webb said that 1 out of 20 kids who get COVID-19 can have lingering symptoms that last beyond a month; these symptoms include fatigue, mind fog, challenges with breathing and so on.
“We don’t have years’ worth of data, but we know that COVID-19 has a significant impact and an unpredictable impact and the more we can limit its ability to spread the better,” he said.
Webb said that he and wife plan to have their children vaccinated once the Food and Drug Administration authorize the vaccine. He said it is not uncommon for parents to dig into the data when it comes to a new vaccine for their children.
As part of its rollout plan, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working with states to ensure that the vaccine is available and that the communities are aware of it. Part of these efforts include establishing and maintaining relationships with pediatricians, pharmacies and local leaders.
Community leaders, particularly those who share messages on health and well-being, are the ones the folks are going to look to, Webb said. The goal will be to make sure those trusted voices understand the science, research, data and nature of the recommendations to ensure they’re sharing accurate information with their community.
“We want to get as much information out there as possible,” Webb said. “As much trusted, accurate, fact-based, information out there, because we know often, we’re combating misinformation. The more people have good information, the better.”