When COVID-19 vaccines become available for the roughly 28 million children age 5 to 11 in the U.S., needles used to administer them will be smaller.
“We worked with Pfizer to modify the packaging of the pediatric doses to make it easier for pediatricians, family doctors, and other providers to provide vaccines to children,” said White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients during a Wednesday press briefing. “And these vaccine doses will be shipped with all the supplies needed to vaccinate kids, including smaller needles.”
According to the New York Times, the needles that administer the vaccine and the vials that hold it will need to be smaller so they can be stored more easily. Pfizer BioNTech doses for children are expected to contain 10 micrograms of the vaccine rather than the 30-microgram dose used for people aged 12 and older, said the outlet.
Best practices for vaccinations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that intramuscular injections for children ages 3 to 11 should be administered via 1-inch to 1.25-inch needles. For those who are 12 years old or older, 1-inch to 1.5-inch needles are called for.
Zients said the White House expects the Food and Drug Administration and CDC to decide on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 in the next couple of weeks.
“We know millions of parents have been waiting for COVID-19 vaccine for kids in this age group, and should the FDA and CDC authorize the vaccine, we will be ready to get shots in arms,” he said.
According to Zients the U.S. already has enough supply to vaccinate every child age 5 to 11 in the nation.
“States, Tribes, and territories are working to ensure that doses continued to be distributed efficiently and equitably across their jurisdictions,” he said.
Instead of the large vaccination centers where many adults received their vaccines, children will get shots in familiar, trusted settings such as pediatricians and family doctors. Pfizer worked to modify packaging of the pediatric doses to make it easier for these providers to store vaccines.
“We’re doing the work to ensure parents will be able to get their kids ages 5 through 11 vaccinated with these trusted providers,” said Zients. “We’ve already enrolled more than 25,000 pediatricians, family doctors, and other primary care providers to administer vaccines. And we’re working with states and localities to enroll more.”
Tens of thousands of local pharmacies as well as community health centers and rural health centers will also offer vaccines for children, he added. More than 100 Children Hospital Association member hospitals will have vaccination sites and events for their communities and more events will be planned at schools.
“Importantly, as we’ve done throughout all of our vaccination effort, equity and fairness will be at the center of our pediatric vaccination program,” Zients said.
Even with vaccines at the ready and a plan in place, reluctance among parents could be a roadblock in vaccinating American children, said the New York Times. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation last month found that only one in three parents plan to get their children vaccinated immediately after the shots are authorized, with some wanting to wait and see how it affected children.
While children are hospitalized for COVID-19 less than adults, they still can contract serious cases of the virus and transmit it to others, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Zients said President Joe Biden’s administration would support local vaccine mandates for children.