WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host clinics to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to kids and information to parents on the benefits of the shots as the White House looks to speedily provide vaccines to those ages 5 to 11.
First lady Jill Biden and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy visited the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, on Monday to launch a nationwide campaign to promote child vaccinations. The school was the first to administer the polio vaccine in 1954.
The visit came just days after federal regulators recommended the COVID-19 vaccine for the age group. The White House says the first lady will visit pediatric vaccination clinics across the country over the coming weeks to encourage the shots.
“The vaccine is the best way to protect your children against COVID-19,” she told parents in the school’s cafeteria, after touring a clinic in the gymnasium that vaccinated 260 students. “It’s been thoroughly reviewed and rigorously tested. It’s safe. It’s free. And it’s available for every child in this country, five and up."
At the same time, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona are sending a letter to school districts across the country calling on them to organize vaccine clinics for their newly eligible students. The officials are reminding school districts that they can tap into billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief money to support pediatric vaccination efforts.
The Biden administration is providing local school districts with tools to help schools partner with pharmacies to administer shots. And it's asking schools to share information on the benefits of vaccines and details about the vaccination process with parents, to counter disinformation surrounding the shots.
The White House is encouraging schools to host community conversations and share fact sheets on the vaccines and is working with the American Academy of Pediatrics to partner local physicians with schools aiming to share science-based information about the shots.
“Parenthood and worrying go hand-in-hand — it’s just what we do,” the first lady told parents. “So, I can’t promise you that the dangers of the world will become any less frightening. Just wait until your kids start driving! But with this vaccine, we can take away at least one of those worries. A big one.”
About 28 million kids ages 5 to 11 are newly eligible for shots now that the Pfizer vaccine is approved for the age group. The White House says the federal government has procured enough of the two-dose vaccine for all of them.
A Pfizer study of 2,268 children found the vaccine was almost 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections. The Food and Drug Administration studied the shots in 3,100 vaccinated kids in concluding the shots are safe.
While kids are less likely than adults to develop severe COVID-19, with the delta variant they get infected and transmit “just as readily as adults do,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, told a recent White House briefing.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, at least 94 children ages 5 to 11 have died from COVID-19, more than 8,300 have been hospitalized and more than 5,000 have developed a serious inflammatory condition linked to the virus.