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The White House says COVID vaccination for kids younger than 5 could start soon

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Parents of babies, toddlers and other very young children may be just weeks away from being able to get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19. That's the latest word from the White House. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has the story.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Many parents of very young children have been on the edge of their seats, waiting for the day when they could finally protect their kids against COVID-19. They watched with increasing despair and even anger as adults, teenagers and even kids aged 5 and older have been able to get their shots and then even a booster or two. Here's Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.

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ASHISH JHA: It's been a long two years. This is the last group of Americans who have not yet been eligible to get vaccinated.

STEIN: But that long wait looks like it's finally getting close to being over.

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JHA: We expect that vaccinations will begin in earnest as early as Tuesday, June 21, and really roll on throughout that week.

STEIN: That's because the Food and Drug Administration will start to consider the first vaccines for children younger than 5 on June 15 when the agency convenes outside experts to decide whether to recommend authorizing pediatric versions of both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. If the FDA advisers endorse the vaccines, the agency could authorize them very quickly, and the CDC could sign off on the vaccine within days. And the first 10 million doses could start arriving at thousands of pediatrician's offices, children's hospitals and other locations over the following weekend. That Monday, June 20, is the Juneteenth federal holiday, so most doctor's offices will be closed. But vaccinations could start the next day.

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JHA: And our expectation is that within weeks, every parent who wants their child to get vaccinated will be able to get an appointment.

STEIN: Now, both vaccines require the first two shots be spaced about a month apart, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires a third shot two months later, so it'll take a while for these kids to get fully protected. But Jha says to get the ball rolling on all this, states can start ordering vaccine for kids younger than 5 today.

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JHA: We know that many, many parents are eager to vaccinate their youngest kids.

STEIN: Those parents will likely rush out to get the shots as soon as they can. But since most parents in the U.S. still haven't vaccinated their older kids, even though they've been eligible for months, it remains unclear how many will end up taking advantage of the first vaccines for kids younger than age 5.

Rob Stein, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.

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