States can preorder COVID-19 vaccine doses for younger children this week as they begin to set up vaccination campaigns for ages 5-11.
Vaccine advisory groups for the FDA and CDC are scheduled to discuss and approve the Pfizer shot for kids in the next three weeks. To help states and cities prepare for the rollout, the CDC issued guidance on how to set up expanded vaccination programs.
Immunization program managers can begin ordering doses on Wednesday, according to the guidance. The vials won’t be delivered until the FDA and CDC authorize the shot, but registering now will help federal officials ship doses quickly once they’re available.
Pharmacies in every state will be able to give COVID-19 shots to children, but they can only use doses that are prepared specifically for children. Ages 5-11 will need a 10-microgram dose, which is one-third of the dose administered to ages 12 and older. The guidance warns that doctors should not try to split up or fraction the adult doses.
The CDC guidance also recommends that pediatricians and family practice doctors should serve as primary places to give shots to kids. The document mentions other options, such as vaccination clinics at schools, but doesn’t endorse them as the first choice for vaccinating kids.
The CDC hasn’t yet addressed questions around whether kids should be required to get vaccinated to attend school. The decision will likely be left to state and city officials.
Federal health officials aren’t yet sure how many parents and guardians will seek shots for their younger kids right away, the AP reported. Demand may be high at first for some families, but it may not be as high as when shots first became available for adults, Marcus Plescia, MD, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told The Associated Press.
“We’re going to have potentially a very busy, and perhaps modestly chaotic time,” he said.
When vaccines were first authorized for adults, hospitals and pharmacies received priority for ordering shots. Some doctors felt left out. This time, however, the CDC has said that pediatricians will receive higher priority and be able to receive shipments quickly.
As the vaccine rollout begins, health officials should consider logistical concerns to address racial and economic disparities for younger kids, Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a former acting director of the CDC, told the AP.
If parents or guardians can’t leave work to take their kids to a pharmacy or doctor’s office, for instance, their kids may not receive a shot quickly – or at all.
“It’s really important that we recognize the barriers to vaccinations,” he said.
A version of this article first appeared on.