President Biden called approval of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11 a crucial step in the fight against the pandemic, and said a campaign to deliver the shots will fully ramp up next week.

“We’ve taken a giant step forward to further accelerate our path out of the pandemic,” Biden said Wednesday at the White House. “For parents all over this country, this is a day of relief and celebration.”

Biden also again encouraged elderly Americans to obtain vaccine boosters, and said that half of seniors who received the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine have already gotten a third shot. He celebrated the U.S. reaching 80% of adults with at least one shot, and said that as a result, at Thanksgiving “our tables and our hearts are going to be full, thanks to the vaccine.”

The administration’s vaccine booking portal will begin scheduling shots for kids age 5 to 11 by the end of the week, after they were cleared Tuesday.

Some pharmacies and doctors’ offices are already booking appointments and the vaccines.gov website will augment those efforts, said Jeff Zients, Biden’s Covid-19 coordinator, in a briefing on Wednesday. He repeated an earlier warning that the kids’ inoculation effort will need until next week to fully ramp up.

“We’ve been planning for this moment and we are prepared and beginning the week of November 8th, our program will be fully up and running,” Zients said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky authorized vaccines for younger children — a one-third dose of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE shot — in a statement late Tuesday, after an advisory panel recommended it unanimously.

“Please know we have thoroughly reviewed all of the available safety, immunogenicity and efficacy data before recommending this vaccine for your child,” Walensky said at Wednesday’s briefing. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said he will vaccinate his own 5-year-old as soon as possible.

The Biden administration says it’s ordered enough vaccines for all 28 million kids in the age group, though a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last week found that less than a third of parents plan to immediately inoculate their kids.





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