The White House has announced that it is prepared to begin vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 against Covid-19 starting in November, a move that will make 28 million more Americans eligible for the vaccine.

President Joe Biden’s administration said it had already reserved enough supply and partnered with 25,000 locations nationwide such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies or schools in anticipation that regulators will soon license the Pfizer vaccine for children.

“We expect a decision from the FDA and CDC on the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 in the next two weeks,” White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters.

“We know that millions of parents have been waiting for the Covid-19 vaccine for children in this age group, and if the FDA and CDC clear the vaccine, we will be ready.”

The FDA will convene an expert panel on the issue next week, followed by the CDC on Nov. 2-3, with clearance expected shortly thereafter.

During a clinical trial, children in the 5- to 11-year-old group received a two-dose regimen of 10 micrograms, compared with 30 micrograms for the older age groups. The injections were administered 21 days apart.

Side effects were “generally comparable to those seen in participants 16 to 25 years of age,” Pfizer said in a statement, adding that the injections induced a robust antibody response.

Pain and swelling at the injection site are among the most commonly reported side effects in people of all ages, along with headaches, chills, and fever.

Pfizer did not mention the rare side effect of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that has been linked to the vaccine, primarily among adolescent males and those in their 20s.

Children key to global immunization

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received full FDA approval for people 16 years and older, and the FDA in May cleared its emergency use in children 12 to 15 years old. Experts say it is critical to vaccinate children to move toward achieving population immunity against the disease.

While younger children are less likely to develop severe cases, they can still become ill and transmit the virus to the general population.

However, the different risk-benefit profile for younger children may present challenges in persuading some parents that the vaccine is worthwhile.

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