President Biden on Tuesday marked what White House officials have portrayed as the unofficial start of the US vaccination campaign for children under 5, visiting a site in Washington, DC, to meet with families. and children while giving some injections.
“Finally, some peace of mind,” Biden said at the White House after the event in remarks that celebrated the availability of vaccines, calling it a “monumental step forward” in the nation’s response to the pandemic.
Federal health officials, eager to show the progress the United States has made in fending off deadly cases of the coronavirus, have worked for weeks to prepare parents and doctors to vaccinate the youngest children, a population of about 20. million that has waited 18 months later. adults first became eligible for vaccines.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last week approved Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccines for young children after votes by independent expert committees.
Mr. Biden said he met with about 17 families at the Washington vaccination site with children who had already received a vaccine or were about to receive one. A federal website, vaccines.gov, was updated Tuesday to show where vaccines can be found, he said.
Arsema Desta, a registered nurse in Washington who helps with local pediatric immunization efforts, appeared with the president at the White House, saying that immunizations for young children were important “because it allows multigenerational households to make sure that everyone at home are vaccinated”.
The Biden administration has already made at least 10 million doses available to states and health providers and hopes to rely heavily on pediatricians and primary care practices to administer them, as is typical of pediatric vaccination campaigns. Pharmacies and community health centers, among other providers, will also vaccinate the little ones.
But as of last week’s deadline, only 2.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been ordered, about half of what the federal government offered, as well as about 1.3 million doses of Modern, about a quarter of what was offered.
Dr. Deborah M. Greenhouse, a pediatrician in Columbia, South Carolina, said that as of Tuesday afternoon, her practice was still waiting for about 1,000 doses to arrive. She said the parents she had met so far fell into three categories: those who kicked down doors to get the vaccine; those interested but in need of some consultation; and completely resistant families.
She said the lower acceptance among 5- to 11-year-olds was a “real concern” that she and her colleagues had, but hoped to overcome with younger children. Only about 37 percent of children in the age group have received at least one dose.
Pediatricians are especially important for families to choose from, he said.
“Once it’s in place and you have a lot of early adoption groups, once your kids have gotten the vaccine and there’s more data and bigger numbers, that’s what will appeal” to families waiting to decide, he said.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Biden again warned of a lack of funding for the federal response to the pandemic, something he suggested could hamper future attempts to quell possible surges. Federal health officials have for months pleaded with lawmakers to provide more money for vaccines and treatments. But negotiations have stalled, even turning publicly hostile at a Senate hearing last week.
Mr. Biden also appeared to take a swing at Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. Health providers in the state were allowed to order vaccines for young children late last week after Florida became the only state to reject advance orders, White House officials said. State officials denied changing their position and said they had maintained a policy to allow orders after FDA clearance.
“Let’s be clear: Elected officials should not get in the way and make it more difficult for parents who want their children to be vaccinated and want to protect them and those around them,” Biden said. “This is not the time for politics. It’s about parents being able to do whatever they can to keep their kids safe.”