Background Press Call on the Administration’s Operational Plan for Vaccinating Children Under Five Against COVID-19

Via Teleconference

(June 8, 2022)

5:33 P.M. EDT

MR. MUNOZ:  All right.  Hi, everybody.  Thank you for joining us for a call to discuss the Biden administration’s plan — operational plan for vaccinating children with — against COVID-19. 

On today’s call we have [senior administration official].  She is our [redacted].  We also have [senior administration official].  And for questions, we also have [senior administration official].

With that, I will kick it to [senior administration official] for remarks. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks so much, Kevin. 

Good evening, everyone.  Thanks so much for joining the call.  We’re very excited to talk to you about all the planning that we’ve been doing in anticipation of possible authorization and recommendation for pediatric doses for kids under five.

Okay.  So, let me start with the timeline we’re currently tracking.  Right now, FDA is working through a rigorous and independent scientific process.

As part of that process, FDA’s advisory committee will meet next Tuesday, June 14th, and Wednesday, June 15th, to review the data submitted by both Pfizer and Moderna for their vaccines for kids under six and under five.

We expect —

MR. MUNOZ:  [Senior administration official], you may have muted yourself.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sorry, I hit my — (laughs) — I’m sorry. 

So — so, I think I already went over.  Next Tuesday, June 14th and June 15th, FDA’s VRBPAC will review the submissions by Pfizer and Moderna.  We expect FDA’s decision shortly after these meetings.

And then, CDC has announced that ACIP, its advisory committee, will meet on Friday, June 17th, and Saturday, June 18th, after which the CDC director would issue her recommendation.

At that point, after all those actions are taken — if they are taken — vaccinations can begin.

As a reminder, Monday, June 20th, is an important federal holiday.  So, those are the key dates that we’re tracking for this.

I do want to emphasize, you know, we think it’s important to do this right.  That’s what this entire process is about.  And we’re not going to prejudge the outcome of the decisions being considered by FDA and CDC.

Okay.  So, let’s talk about, you know, if FDA authorizes and CDC recommends one or both of the COVID-19 vaccines for this age group, it would be an historic milestone in the nation’s fight against the virus.  It would mean that nearly every American is now eligible for the protection that vaccination provides.

We know that there are many parents who have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to vaccinate their youngest kids, and we share their eagerness.  Therefore, you know, every day, all day, right now, we are focusing on getting ready to have this as accessible as possible to as many families as possible. 

We’re going to immediately launch — you know, if, in fact, FDA authorizes and the CDC recommends, we’re going to immediately launch a comprehensive nationwide effort to ensure that parents can get their youngest kids vaccinated easily and do so at locations that they know and they trust.

We will also launch an effort to ensure that parents have answers to their questions and the facts that they need to make informed decisions for their kids.

Based on the timeline I outlined, we could see vaccines start to be delivered to sites over that long weekend.  We do expect that many pediatricians’ offices will be closed to observe Juneteenth on that Monday.  So, realistically, vaccines for our youngest kids could start in earnest as early as Tuesday, June 21st.

Importantly, we know that it will take some time to ramp up.  As more doses are delivered and more appointments become available, within a few weeks, parents who want an appointment will be able to make one.

Vaccinations will be available at a variety of trusted locations, but we know that many families will actually turn to their pediatricians and primary care doctors.  And we stand ready to support those frontline providers.

We encourage every provider who can take this on to sign up.  And we encourage parents to reach out to their pediatricians or family doctors directly to learn more about their plans to offer appointments.

Vaccines.gov will also continue to be an important resource for the families who need it.

We are also ready to leverage federal programs that serve parents and families.

We’re going to be reaching out to millions of children and their parents and guardians nationwide through WIC and SNAP, through Head Start and childcare programs, through HUD-supported housing, and Medicaid, and CHIP.

The administration’s goal on COVID from day one has been to leave no stone unturned and to deploy every capability of the federal government.  We will put that into practice and help to vaccinate America’s youngest kids.

Let me close by highlighting the work that we’re doing to reach every parent and child, including those who may have questions.

We’re going to work with trusted organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of Children’s Museums, the American Library Association, the National PTA, the National Diaper Bank Network, and the National Association of Community Health Centers, as well as a number of Black, Latino, AANHPI, and Native American community-based organizations.

These organizations will work on a national and local level to help raise awareness and answer questions through a variety of activities.

We’re also going to activate our 17,000-plus-member HHS COVID-19 Community Corps, which will help provide creative, kid-focused English and Spanish toolkits to trusted local messengers.

This type of work will not always make headlines, but it’s the kind of local, community-by-community, person-to-person approach that has worked to date in getting over twenty- — 220 million Americans fully vaccinated.

With that, I’m going to turn it over to my colleague, [senior administration official].  [Senior administration official]?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  [Senior administration official], thanks so much.  Wonderful to be here.

You know, over the past 16 months, together with our partners, we have managed one of the most complex logistical challenges in our nation’s history: delivering more than 700 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 90,000 locations nationwide.

Today, as [senior administration official] said, more than 220 million Americans are fully vaccinated.  But we know that our work is not done yet.

As [senior administration official] noted, having COVID-19 vaccines for kids under the age of five would be a significant milestone in our historic vaccination program, helping extend the protection that vaccines offer to our youngest Americans and some additional peace of mind to parents and guardians.

Our objective is clear: to be ready to swiftly and efficiently deliver vaccines for kids under the age of five to communities nationwide as soon as the FDA grants emergency use authorization.  And we are ready. 

To achieve our objective, we have engaged state, local, Tribal, and territorial health departments; pediatricians and primary care providers; children’s hospitals and health systems; and pharmacies on operational planning.

These are many of the same partners we have been engaged with on other vaccination and COVID-19 response efforts over the past few years.  These partners are on the frontlines and critical to success, and we stand ready to help them in any way that we can.

Last week, we opened up pre-ordering for states, Tribes, territories, and other partners to order in advance.  And this would help place initial doses of vaccines to be sent in the first ordering wave.  We are making 10 million doses of vaccine available initially, with millions more available in the coming weeks.

This approach allows us to seed communities with enough vaccine so that it is readily accessible and equitably distributed across the county.

We estimate that 85 percent of children under the age of five live within five miles of a potential vaccination site.

We have asked states and other partners to leverage prior pediatric vaccination best practices and tap into existing pediatric vaccination locations as they continue to sign up additional pediatricians and providers.

We have also asked states and other partners to ensure equity, giving priority to sites that will vaccinate children at highest risk for severe COVID-19 disease and considering factors such as hours of operation.

At this point in the Biden administration’s vaccination program, our partners are accustomed to this process, and so are we. 

Our teams are standing by and will immediately begin shipping vaccines across the country after FDA authorizes a vaccine should FDA authorize a vaccine.

It will take some time to position these vaccines across the country, and vaccinations can’t begin until CDC has made its decision.  But we also know many parents have been waiting for a long time, so we will be working 24/7 until every dose is shipped and delivered.

As we have said previously, we are not in the predicting business; we’re in the planning business. 

Our teams are hard at work planning for the possibility that FDA and CDC will give the green light in the near future.  And if and when they do, we will be ready to deliver.

Thanks so much.  And back to you, [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Kevin? 

MR. MUNOZ:  Thanks, guys.  Let’s do a few questions.  Let’s go to Spencer Kimball at CNBC.

Q    Hi, thanks.  So the ordering started last week, you said.  How many doses of the initial 10 million have been ordered so far by pharmacies in the states?  And how much more vaccine do you expect to come online in the coming weeks?  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks so much.  So we did open ordering last week.  We made 5 million initially available in wave one.  Fifty-eight percent of the Pfizer total threshold was ordered.  Thirty-four percent of the Moderna threshold was ordered. 

We had 53 of 62 jurisdictions ordering, and we’re currently talking to the other jurisdictions to remind them that it would be important to go ahead and get in line and place some orders.

We’re going to open a second wave today.  So those that have additional space to order, there are another 5 million available of the first 10 million.

So we’re continuing to manage that to make sure that we’ve got these waves well accounted for and the vaccines seeded appropriately across the country.

Q    And can you just — what did you mean by “thresholds”? I didn’t quite understand that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  So we’ve made — you know, of the 5 million, we’ve made — let me make sure I’ve got this — we’ve made half of that.  So 2.5 Pfizer doses and 2.5 Moderna doses available.

Q    Thanks.

MR. MUNOZ:  (Inaudible) at NPR. 

Q    Hi, thanks for taking my question.  I was wondering if you could clarify where kids can get vaccinated.  I know that you’re focusing on pediatricians and doctors’ offices, but, you know, will there also be, like, mass vaccination sites set up for kids?  Will there be daycare and preschool campaigns?  Like, where is the breadth of places that people can go?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  It’s [senior administration official].  So I’ll take a swing at this, and then [senior administration official] — (laughs) — [senior administration official] can fill in any details that I missed.

But, obviously, we believe that most people are going to go to their pediatrician or their primary care provider if they have one.  However, we recognize that that’s not everyone, and so we really do want to reach anybody who wants to get a vaccine. 

So, we’re looking at working with our — well, we are definitely working with our federal pharmacy partners so that you can get them at pharmacies.  We’re also working with state and local health departments in terms of setting up clinics.  And then we’re looking at ways to set up other sort of non-traditional sites as well.

And, [senior administration official], do you want to talk a little bit about — more detail on that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Absolutely.  So as [senior administration official] said and as you’ll see in the factsheet, I think that just landed in your inbox, a wide variety of sites available based on the preferences of parents and guardians and families.

The one I’d add to [senior administration official]’s (inaudible) is: Children’s hospitals and health systems, they will play a critical role in reaching the highest-risk kids in our country and in doing high volume, both through their care locations, both in the inpatient and outpatient setting, as well as through community-based clinics and trusted locations.

As [senior administration official] said — that we anticipate that as kids get younger, they are less likely to go to large clinics.  You want to have that one-on-one time with a provider.

So — but we do know that these clinics will play some role.  And for the sites that are ready, we’ll be working with childcare sites, we’ll be working with museums and libraries to set up these clinics in partnerships with — in partnerships with providers, in partnerships with hospitals, and make sure that communities are getting access in places that they know and trust.

MR. MUNOZ:  Let’s go to Cheyenne Haslett at ABC News.

Q    Hi, thank you guys.  So I wanted to just quickly go back to those numbers that [senior administration official] had mentioned.  It seems like there are still 2.7 million unordered doses then from that first tranche.  Is that expected?  Do you have any explanation for why that would be lower?  Have you had conversations with states about Biden not ordering more?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks so much.  Our experience has been that people are slow to order, and this has been true across each of the times we’ve opened up ordering. 

So, I wouldn’t focus on those early numbers.  We — you know, we — our experience is that the longer the ordering stays open, the more likely the states come forward.  So some of this is a matter of letting them know the ordering is available and that they can begin that process. 

So those are just the early numbers.  We’re not too worried or focused on that, and we’ll continue to do these outreach.  And it’s not, you know, untypical to what we’ve seen in previous waves.

Q    And about the diff- — (inaudible) —

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I would just quickly add too, from our perspective, it’s one of the reasons why the federal health centers and rural health clinics program out of HRSA and federal pharmacy program play such a critical role in making sure we’re able to get directly to these providers in the earliest days of the program launch.

MR. MUNOZ:  All right, let’s go to Alyssa Rosenberg at Washington Post.

     Q    Sure.  Can you tell us a little bit more about what you’ve learned from the vaccination campaigns for older kids about the concerns that parents have?  And are there ways that you’re tailoring information and messaging to both parents and providers about the vaccine that build on these previous campaigns and what you’ve seen about if either parents were enthusiastic or parents were hesitant?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure, good question.  This is [senior administration official].  And, again, I’ll turn it over to [senior administration official] in a second. 

You know, we have learned from our previous campaigns.  And one of the most important lessons that we’ve learned is that, you know, we know who people listen to when making decisions, and there are trusted people in their lives.  And some of them are doctors, some of them are community leaders.  We are going to meet people where they are and answer their questions. 

And so, what we are trying to do is we are trying to ensure that those people in communities, including pediatricians, have the information that they need to answer parents’ questions.

And so, you know, I think our goals are twofold: to make sure that the product is available and to make sure that parents have the information that they need about the vaccines. 

[Senior administration official]?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, just a little additional detail on some of the exciting stuff we have underway.  And, again, you’ll see this in the factsheet.  We’re really excited about the role that the Community Corps is going to play in this.  This is a network of providers and trusted messengers across the United States, and we’re going to make sure they have a whole host of resources to reach their communities with.  You know, these are people communities know and trust. 

And, two, as [senior administration official] said, working in close partnership with major medical associations, we know that parents look to providers for that trusted medical advice and that they’ll be looking to providers to answer questions they may have. 

So we’ll be working with AAP to launch a speakers bureau so that community organizations can request a trusted doc come and visit with communities and partake in community events to answer questions and encourage uptake.  Really excited about that one.  You’ll see another — a bunch of other examples in that factsheet as well.

Q    And just to follow up on that — you’ve talked a lot about the specific — about the people who are trusted, but are there specific messages that you’re trying to get out, specific concerns you’re trying to get ahead of?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think, you know, on the messages, we’ll wait for FDA and CDC to fully review and share their findings on the data.  Then we’ll have more to share on what we can say about safety and efficacy and ways that we can keep kids and their families safe.

MR. MUNOZ:  All right, let’s go to Alex Tin at CBS News.  Alex, you’re unmuted.

All right, we’ll go back to Alex.

Let’s go to Ahmed at Reuters.

Q    Hi, thank you.  So, there are a lot of differences between the Moderna shot and the Pfizer shot for this age group, the biggest being that Moderna is two doses and Pfizer is three.  So if both get authorized, do you plan to distribute them differently?  Will parents be able to opt for one or the other easily?

And similarly, if the manufacturers decide to do a strain change in the vaccines for adults to an Omicron-specific shot like they’re talking about, would there be plans to change the pediatric vaccine as well?

MR. MUNOZ:  [Senior administration official], I don’t know if you want to start there. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hello, sorry, I couldn’t get off mute.  Sorry. 

Yes.  Okay, so, in terms of the question about strain change: I think for right now, you know, we’re just looking at what is under review.  You know, it is what it is right now.  And I think, you know, at some point down the road there will be discussions.  FDA is having discussions about strain changes, but, you know, right now, these are the products that are under review. 

In terms of distribution, I don’t — [senior administration official], do you want to talk about distribution of the doses?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure, thanks.  Great question.  We’re making the same number of doses available both of Pfizer and of Moderna.  So we aren’t making — you know, we aren’t prejudging any decisions made by FDA or CDC on what they might authorize or recommend. 

And in our pre-ordering phase — which just began Friday, I want to remind everybody — we’re making equal numbers available and plan to distribute whatever is ordered.

MR. MUNOZ:  All right, let’s try Alex again.

Okay.  Let’s go to Lourdes Torres at Univision.

Q    One, two, three.  Hi, can you hear me? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Alex, hello.

Q    Hi.  Sorry for the tech issues.  I just wanted to follow up on something that was mentioned earlier.  You said that ordering seemed to be higher for Pfizer than Moderna.  What are you hearing from jurisdictions as to why that is?  Have you had any conversations about whether that will affect availability of people who prefer, say, Moderna over Pfizer?  Thanks so much.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  So we’re not in a position to know exactly how this is going to look.  Again, the ordering started on Friday.  The numbers I shared are very, very early days numbers. 

But what we did see, which is interesting, is we saw some states and jurisdictions only order Moderna.  We saw some states and jurisdictions only order Pfizer.  And, of course, this is just in those first early days where the second wave of ordering is going to allow these states and jurisdictions to come back and balance out. 

So we, at this point, I think, don’t have numbers that can tell us one way or the other.  And our job is to make both available in equal numbers.

MR. MUNOZ:  All right, let’s try Lourdes.

Q    Thank you.  Given that the numbers are very early in terms of the pre-ordering, would you feel comfortable sharing a list of the ones that have ordered and the ones that have not — the states that have not, at this point?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think we’re still so early in.  Again, I don’t want to — you know, there — we have those folks that do things on the first day anything opens, and we have those folks that wait until the last minute just by virtue of — you know, of various differences among all of our states and jurisdictions. 

So, we are currently working with those that have not placed orders yet, and anticipate each of them placing orders by the end of the ordering period.  So, I don’t think we’re in a position at this point to share those — those names.  If that changes, we’ll get back to you for sure. 

MR. MUNOZ:  All right.  Last question.  Let’s go to Anita Powell at VOA.

Q    Thank you so much.  Just quickly: During the Quad summit, two months ago now, the U.S. committed to donating a number of pediatric doses to foreign countries in need.  And I was just wondering if that was part of the planning for this, where you are on this.  And, yeah, if you could just update us on that pledge.

MR. MUNOZ:  [Senior administration official]?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  That plan is still underway.  I don’t have anything to announce on that today, but in the near future, I expect that we will have an announcement on that.

MR. MUNOZ:  And, Anita, those are 5-to-11 doses that we’ve committed to, just to clarify. 

With that, thank you everybody for joining tonight.  You all should all have a factsheet embargoed until 5:00 a.m.  This call is embargoed until 5:00 a.m., and a reminder that it’s attributable to “senior administration officials.”  You know where to find me if you have any questions. 

Thanks. 

5:57 P.M. EDT

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2022/06/09/background-press-call-on-the-administrations-operational-plan-for-vaccinating-children-under-five-against-covid-19/