Kid Vaccinations Moving Quickly

White House: About 2.6 million children inoculated, three times faster than adults

By Zeke Miller | The Associated Press

WASHINGTON >> The White House says about 10% of eligible kids age 5 to 11 have received a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine since its approval for their age group two weeks ago.

At least 2.6 million kids have received a shot, White House COVID- 19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday, with 1.7 million doses administered in the last week alone, roughly double the pace of the first week after approval. It’s more than three times faster than the rate adults were vaccinated at the start of the nation’s vaccination campaign 11 months ago.

Zients said there are now 30,000 locations across the country for kids to get a shot, up from 20,000 last week, and that the administration expects the pace of pediatric shots to pick up in the coming days.

Kailyn Nguyen, 9, of Irvine holds the sleeve of her top as she receives the COVID-19vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Tustin Ranch Medical Offices in Tustin on Nov. 4. About 10% of children age 5-11have gotten the vaccine, the White House said Wednesday.  PHOTOS BY MARK RIGHTMIRE—STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Niko Varner, 8, left, and her sister Nyla Varner, 9, of Chino pose for a photo as they show off the bandages on their arms where they received the COVID-19vaccination at the Kaiser Permanente Tustin Ranch Medical Offices in Tustin on Nov. 4.

Kids who get their first vaccine dose by the end of this week will be fully vaccinated by Christmas, assuming they get their second shot three weeks after the first one.

State-by-state breakdowns of doses given to the age group haven’t been released by the White House or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but figures shared by states show the pace varies. About 11-12% of children in that age group have received their first doses in Colorado, Utah and Illinois, but the pace is much slower in places like Idaho (5%), Tennessee (5%) and Wyoming (4%), three states that have some of the lowest rates of vaccination for older groups.

The White House was stepping up its efforts to promote kid vaccination, with first lady Jill Biden and the singer Ciara taping a video Wednesday encouraging shots for kids.

The first lady also visited a Washington pediatric care facility along with Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Washington Mystics’ Alysha Clark and the Washington Wizards’ Thomas Bryant.

“You’re the real heroes,” Biden told newly vaccinated kids. “You have your superpower and now you’re protected against COVID.”  Biden also warned parents against misinformation around the vaccines and emphasized their safety.  “I want you to remember and share with other parents: The vaccine protects your children against COVID- 19,” she said. “It’s been thoroughly reviewed and rigorously tested. It’s safe. It’s free, and it’s available for every single child in this country 5 and up.”

Global supply

The Biden administration took steps Wednesday to make billions of dollars available to drug-makers to scale up domestic production to share with the world and prepare for the next pandemic.

Under the new initiative, the government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is soliciting pharmaceutical companies with proven ability to make the more effective mRNA vaccines to bid for U.S. investment in scaling up their manufacturing. Pfizer and Moderna produce the two U.S. approved mRNA shots.

The White House hopes the move will build capacity to produce an additional 1 billion shots per year.

The initiative comes as the Biden White House has faced growing pressure at home and abroad over inequity in the global vaccine supply — as the U.S. moves toward approving booster shots for all adults while vulnerable people in poorer nations wait for their first dose of protection.

According to an analysis by the ONE Campaign, an international aid and advocacy organization, only 4.7% of people living in low-income countries have received a first dose. Wealthy nations administered more than 173 million booster shots, while lower-income countries have administered about 32 million first shots.

The Biden administration believes increasing capacity of COVID-19 shots will help ease a global shortage of doses, particularly in lower- and middle-income nations, stopping preventable death and limiting the development of potentially new, more dangerous variants of the virus.

“The goal of this program is to expand existing capacity by an additional billion doses per year, with production starting by the second half of 2022,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said.

On Wednesday, Zients announced that the U.S. has now donated 250 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines globally — the most of any nation — with a goal of sharing more than 1.1 billion shots by the end of 2022.

There are no firm agreements yet with Moderna or Pfizer to take up the U.S. on the investment, but the Biden administration hopes that the enhanced manufacturing capacity, through support for the company’s facilities, equipment, staff or training, will by mid-2022 allow more COVID-19 doses to be shared overseas as well as help prepare for the next public health emergency.

The administration is prioritizing the mRNA vaccines, which have proven to be more effective against preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19 than the Johnson & Johnson viral vector vaccine, which uses a harmless virus that carries genetic material to stimulate the immune system. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a piece of genetic code called messenger RNA that tells the body to make harmless copies of the spike protein so it’s trained to recognize the virus.

Robbie Silverman, senior advocacy manager at Oxfam America, welcomed Biden’s plan to invest into vaccine manufacturing capacity but said it was nowhere near sufficient.

“What the world really needs is distributed regional manufacturing capacity of vaccines, and it sounds like this investment is focused on building U.S. capacity,” he said. “We desperately need the companies who have a monopoly over the COVID vaccines to transfer their technology, and we need the U.S. government to use its leverage.”

Silverman estimated that without companies transferring their knowledge of how to make COVID-19 vaccines, it would take manufacturers elsewhere double the time needed to start making doses, noting that billions of vaccines against other diseases are routinely made in developing countries.

Silverman said that while the U.S. should have negotiated more provisions about vaccine equity when it was securing its own supply, it was not too late to act. He said the U.S. should support the proposed waiver that was drafted by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization, calling for patents on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to be suspended. And he said the U.S. could invoke the Defense Production Act to target critical ingredients for COVID-19 shots.

“The U.S. government has lots of tools at its disposal to push pharmaceutical companies,” he said, noting that it had invested billions of dollars into creating Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. “The U.S. needs to make sure these companies, which they funded, are prioritizing public health rather than profits.”

Ava Alkon, a senior policy and research officer at Doctors Without Borders, said that the billion doses that might be produced with the U.S. investment were still far from the figure needed to immunize the world. The World Health Organization has estimated that 11 billion doses are needed.

With medical personnel standing by, Luke Newton, 11, left, of San Clemente, along with Liko Varner, 8, center, and her sister, Nyla Varner, 9, right, of Chino, sit in a waiting room after they received the COVID-19 vaccination at the Kaiser Permanente Tustin Ranch Medical Offices in Tustin on Nov. 4.  MARK RIGHTMIRE—STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

First lady Jill Biden, singer Ciara Princess Wilson, right, with her children Future Zahir, 7, Sienna Princess, 4, and Win Harrison Wilson, 1, watch from the White House balcony as President Joe Biden leaves the White House on Marine One on Wednesday.  MANUEL BALCE CENETA—THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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