Bridgette Melo, 5, prepares for a study at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina on Jan.

Shawn Rocco | Duke University | via Reuters

The U.S. government will be relying heavily on pediatricians and general practitioners in rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 starting next month, White House coordinator of coronavirus response Jeff Zients said on Wednesday.

The White House has asked governors to enroll pediatricians and other vaccination program providers so they can start giving vaccinations once the doses have been approved by U.S. regulators for use in young children, Zients told reporters.

Federal health officials have also asked states to plan awareness-raising campaigns, Zients said, and ensure that Covid vaccination sites are available in areas of “high social vulnerability” and in rural areas.

“If it’s authorized by the FDA and CDC, we’ll be ready,” Zients said during a press conference on the pandemic. “We have the offer. I would like to emphasize that it is a different offer; the dose for children is a different dose than for adults.”

Parents say they are careful to get their kids vaccinated as the kids have started the new school year and the Delta variant is still spilling across America. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the number of new Covid cases in children remains exceptionally high with more than 750,000 new child cases in the last four weeks.

In the week ending October 7, children accounted for 24.8% of the weekly reported Covid cases, despite making up about 22% of the US population, according to the group. Infections in children account for 16.3% of all Covid cases since the beginning of the pandemic, the academy said.

Pfizer asked the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday for approval of the Covid vaccine that the drug company developed with BioNTech for children ages 5 to 11.

The company presented data showing that a two-dose regimen of 10 micrograms – a third of the dose used for adults and children 12 years and older – is safe and elicits a strong immune response in a clinical trial in young children. The syringes are well tolerated and have caused an immune response and side effects that are comparable to those observed in a study with 16 to 25 year olds.

Vaccinations for young children could begin in early November pending a positive regulatory review, said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Wednesday.

A key FDA vaccine advisory committee is due to meet on October 26 to discuss Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine data on children, followed by a meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Group on November 2. If all goes well, the cans could be distributed within days of the November meeting, he told reporters.

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