President Biden on Wednesday urged millions of parents to get their young children vaccinated against the coronavirus, touting the government’s authorization of inoculations for children between 5 and 11 as a major milestone in the nation’s effort to end the pandemic.
Mr. Biden’s comments came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children. The decision was in sync with the Food and Drug Administration, which on Friday authorized emergency use of pediatric doses for the roughly 29 million children in that age group.
“For parents all over this country, this is a day of relief and celebration,” Mr. Biden said, adding that the vaccination program was ramping up this week with more doses being shipped out each day, to be “fully up and running by next week.”
Immunizing children 5 to 11 is expected to prevent about 600,000 new coronavirus cases between now and March 2022. Rising immunity may reduce the chances that young children will transmit the virus to vulnerable adults in their families and communities, health officials noted. It will also probably keep schools open.
Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, emphasized again at a news conference earlier on Wednesday that the rollout was still emerging, promising that millions more pediatric doses would be “in the air and on trucks” in the next 24 hours. By next week, he said, around 20,000 sites would offer the pediatric vaccine, with more coming in the weeks after.
Mr. Zients said that state and municipal health departments would conduct thousands of community clinics at fairgrounds, zoos and sporting events, and that schools would host thousands of their own clinics this year.
“I know many parents have been waiting for this day, but I also know some people might have some questions,” Mr. Biden said, encouraging parents to speak to local doctors and community leaders about vaccination.
The president said many of the vaccine sites would offer times at night and on weekends for parents to take their children for shots after work and after school.
“This vaccine is safe and effective,” Mr. Biden said. “So get your children vaccinated.”
One key resource was still missing from the administration’s rollout: a way to find pediatric doses on vaccines.gov, the federal website that helps people locate vaccine availability near them. Asked why the administration had yet to program the site to find pediatric doses, Mr. Zients said that the site would do so by Friday.
“You need to get the vaccines to the sites — the sites have to be ready and up and running,” he said. “We’ll have a threshold number of sites online by Friday.”