U.S. COVID Vaccine Rollout For Children Will Pick Up Pace

June 21 (Reuters) – The rollout in the United States this week of COVID vaccines for children as young as six months is likely to start slowly, and then pick up in the coming days, according to White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Moderna Inc’s shot for children aged six months to five years, and Pfizer-BioNTech’s, vaccine for children aged six months to four years.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday recommended the shots, allowing the rollout to begin.

While many parents in the United States are eager to vaccinate their children, it is unclear how strong demand will be for the shots. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for children aged 5 to 11 in October, but only about 29% of that group is so far fully vaccinated, federal data shows.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, on CNN television on Tuesday, advised parents to take the virus seriously, saying that nearly 500 children had died and more than 30,000 children under 5 had been hospitalized since the pandemic began.

“It’s hard to predict which kids run into trouble. About half of these kids who have run into trouble with COVID have not had underlying symptoms,” Murthy said. “So that’s why every child deserves protection. We want parents to consider this vaccine strongly.”

In a Twitter thread on Monday, Jha said the rollout for younger children differed from those for other age groups in that there were no mass vaccination sites, but there would be more inoculations done in doctors’ offices.

“Parents are clear they want to vaccinate their littlest ones in familiar settings — doctors offices, pharmacies, health clinics, and children’s hospitals,” he tweeted

Jha said the vaccines could only be shipped once authorized and with Monday being a federal holiday, many doctors’ offices and children’s’ hospitals were likely to receive vaccines on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Not all pharmacies will offer the shots to everyone in this age group. CVS Health Corp will offer shots for children aged 18 months and up, while Walmart Inc and Rite Aid Corp will offer them to those aged 3 and older.

(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru, Katherine Jackson in Washington DC; editing by Caroline Humer and Bernadette Baum)

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