White House Estimates Almost 1 Million Younger Children Got Vaccines So Far

The White House estimated on Wednesday that nearly a million young children have gotten Covid-19 shots since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was cleared for 5- to 11-year-olds last week — a figure that President Biden’s top coronavirus adviser, Jeff Zients, described as a “good start.”

Because of a lag in reporting to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which gathers vaccination data, the White House did its own analysis by collecting information from pharmacies and state and local health officials, Mr. Zients said. He said officials “estimate conservatively” that 900,000 children have had their first shot.

He said an additional 700,000 pediatric vaccination appointments have been scheduled at pharmacies across the nation.

“Our goal clearly is to vaccinate as many kids as possible,” Mr. Zients said at a White House briefing on the pandemic. “This is the very beginning of the program. The program is just getting up to full strength.”

The vaccine is now available to roughly 28 million children nationwide and so far, it has been difficult to gauge parent interest. In northwest Washington D.C., a relatively affluent area, there were long lines of parents and children waiting to be vaccinated over the weekend.

An elementary school in Virginia visited by Jill Biden, the first lady, earlier this week quickly filled 260 vaccine appointments. The school has 355 students.

And in New York City on Monday, officials were caught off-guard by the demand at certain schools, which far exceeded the interest last spring at school-based vaccine clinics for teenagers.

But elsewhere in the country, many parents are wary. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, published last month before the F.D.A.’s authorization for younger children, found that 27 percent of parents said they would “definitely not” get their 5-to-11-year-olds vaccinated against the coronavirus. An additional 33 percent said they would “wait and see” how the vaccine was working before getting their children the shots.

The campaign to vaccinate young children does not resemble the campaign to vaccinate adults. There are no mass vaccination centers. The dose and the vials are smaller. The White House is recruiting pediatricians to get involved.

The campaign also differs in one other notable respect: The White House has not publicly set a goal for how many children it would like to see vaccinated and when.

Earlier this year, Mr. Biden set a goal of having 70 percent of all adults receive at least one Covid-19 shot by July 4. The White House did not meet that goal by that date, and when Mr. Zients was asked on Wednesday if the Biden administration had set a goal for children, he ducked the question.

“I want to emphasize again that we have plenty of supply for all 28 million kids ages 5 to 11,” Mr. Zients said in answer to the question, adding, “We’re off to a very strong start.”

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