President Biden said U.S. adolescents will begin receiving COVID-19 shots on Thursday, after a federal advisory panel had endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for ages 12 to 15.
About 17 million Americans in that age group are now eligible for the vaccine, and 15,000 pharmacies will be ready to vaccinate them from Day One, according to Mr. Biden.
“This is one more giant step in our fight against the pandemic,” he said Wednesday at the White House.
Mr. Biden spoke moments after the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 14-0, with one recusal, to recommend the two-dose vaccine for ages 12-15. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the shots for emergency use in this cohort on Monday, citing positive clinical trials.
Biden administration officials are pushing for kids to be vaccinated, saying it will help the U.S. reach immunity targets and let many schools return to normal this fall.
“I encourage each of them and their parents to get their vaccination shots right away,” Mr. Biden said.
The president and doctors’ groups highlighted the anxiety and disruption that children and teens have faced during the pandemic.
“We’ve seen the harm done to children’s mental and emotional health as they’ve missed out on so many experiences during the pandemic,” said Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Vaccinating children will protect them and allow them to fully engage in all of the activities — school, sports, socializing with friends and family — that are so important to their health and development.”
Mr. Biden told parents to ask their pediatricians about the vaccine and seek the shots in their offices.
“We know physicians are eager to administer COVID-19 vaccines in their offices and this is where patients and parents are most comfortable receiving vaccines,” said Susan R. Bailey, president of the American Medical Association. “Because physicians are a trusted source of information for patients, their direct conversations and recommendations for patients to get vaccinated will help boost vaccine confidence and result in more people getting vaccinated.”
Pfizer’s vaccine was first approved for ages 16 and up in December. Another two-dose option, from Moderna, and a one-shot version from Johnson & Johnson have been approved for ages 18 and up for months, so adults had a big head start on children.
Mr. Biden wants 70% of U.S. adults to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, a date he circled as an entry point to normalcy after a devastating pandemic.
Nearly 59% of adults have received one dose or more so far, although six states already have met Mr. Biden’s goal — Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Mr. Biden and governors are pivoting from mass-vaccination efforts to a more nuanced and targeted rollout. Most of the people who were eager to get vaccinated have already gotten theirs — so vaccinators must root out people who have struggled to find doses or convince people the vaccines are safe and effective.
Mr. Biden wants Americans to visit Vaccines.gov to find a vaccination site near them and applauded companies and states for offering incentives — from free baseball tickets to gift cards — to people.
“We still have a lot of work to do to get the adult vaccination rate to 70%,” the president said, “but I believe we’re going to get there.”