“This is one more giant step in our fight against the pandemic,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday, after a CDC panel voted to recommend use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds. The shot was already available to anyone 16 and older, and the FDA on Monday gave emergency authorization to expand eligibility down to the age of 12.
Biden noted that there have been about 3 million Covid-19 cases among US children. But while Americans 17 and under account for around 9% of cases, they make up less than 0.1% of Covid-19 deaths. Children who are infected with the virus don’t typically suffer serious illness or death.
Biden suggested that inoculating children will help stop them from spreading Covid-19 to parents, grandparents and other people. However, the CDC has noted that while the three available Covid-19 vaccines offered in the US protect those inoculated from being infected, it’s not yet clear how well they prevent a person from spreading the virus to someone else.
Wednesday’s CDC decision means that US 12- to 15-year-olds will be able to start receiving Covid-19 vaccines through 15,000 pharmacies, as well as family doctors and pediatricians, on Thursday.
Biden said adding the new age group makes an additional 17 million Americans eligible to get the jabs. He touted a new program through which Uber and Lyft will give free roundtrip rides to vaccination sites. “It’s never been easier or more convenient to get vaccinated,” the president said.
Biden set a goal of having 70% of American adults receive at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by July 4. He said on Wednesday that the country will reach 60% by next week. He held a meeting with a group of governors on Tuesday to discuss creative ways that states have tried to reach more people with the vaccines.
One such example is Maine, which is offering adults who get their first doze by May 31 the choice of a free fishing license, a free hunting license, a free state park day pass, a $20 L.L. Bean gift card, a free ticket to a minor league baseball game, a free ticket to an auto race or a free ticket to a wildlife park.
“July 4, let’s celebrate our independence as a nation and our independence from this virus,” Biden said.
If urging parents to get their children vaccinated isn’t enough, the CDC also is suggesting the reverse. CDC director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday urged children to ask for the vaccine if their parents are hesitant. Vaccinating children may be necessary for the US to reach herd immunity, containing the spread of Covid-19, Walensky told a Senate committee.
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