Chris Aluka Berry | Reuters
The announcement came just a day after the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee recommended vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech for that age group. The more than 1.2 million vaccine doses will be ready to distribute within the first week after the shots get approved, said Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s epidemiologist.
“We have around 4,000 sites that are ready to administer and over 1,000 providers across the state enrolled to vaccinate,” Pan said. “And more than 860,000 doses of vaccine have already been ordered.”
More than 3.5 million children ages 5 to 11 live in California, roughly 9% of the state’s population, Pan said. The vaccine rollout to young kids could begin as soon as CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky authorizes the shots, which she’s expected to do after the agency’s advisory panel meets Tuesday.
California’s Department of Public Health is already working with schools to administer vaccines, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state’s Health and Human Services Agency. Some schools in California are collaborating with pharmacies and other health-care providers to give out shots, Ghaly said, adding he expected to see more clinics at education centers appearing in November.
“By the middle of next month, CDPH, working with a lot of local health jurisdictions and other partners, have planned many vaccine locations at schools,” Ghaly said.
Newsom’s plan will unfold in two phases, starting with kids 12 to 17 once the FDA fully clears vaccines for that age group. The order will then expand to kids 5 to 11, pending the FDA’s approval. The FDA is expected to clear the shots for the younger age group as early as this week with full approval expected to take several months longer. White House officials have said the country has a stockpile of doses to immunize all 28 million of the country’s 5 to 11-year-olds.
If the agency doesn’t fully approve vaccines for those over 12 by the end of the year, Ghaly said the mandate’s starting date would be pushed from January to July. The FDA fully approved Pfizer’s vaccine for everyone 16 and older in August and cleared it for emergency use in adolescents 12 to 15 in May. Moderna and J&J’s vaccines are currently approved for use in adults only.