WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said there will be thousands of pharmacy sites around the United States ready to provide COVID-19 vaccines to young adults as soon as the FDA authorizes one of the shots.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for young adults age 12 and older by next week, a federal official and a person familiar with the process confirmed to the Associated Press on Monday.
"If that announcement comes, we are ready to move immediately to make about 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country ready to vaccinate those adolescents as soon as the FDA grants its okay,” Biden said Tuesday afternoon.
The president stressed that it will be "the FDA and the FDA alone" that will make the decision on whether to approve the COVID-19 vaccines for younger adolescents.
Biden added that if approved, they will also be shipping doses "in the following weeks" to pediatricians, "so parents and their children can talk to their family doctor about it and get the shot from a provider they trust the most. East, fast and free."
The president also said that if teens are on the move this summer, they will be able to get the first dose in one place and the second dose somewhere else.
"So my hope is if the vaccine is authorized, parents will take advantage of it and get their kids vaccinated," Biden declared.
A federal official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview the FDA's action to the AP, said the agency was expected to expand its emergency use authorization for Pfizer's two-dose vaccine by early next week, and perhaps even sooner.
The FDA action will be followed by a meeting of a federal vaccine advisory committee to discuss whether to recommend the shot for 12 to 15-year-olds. Shots could begin after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopts the committee’s recommendation. Those steps could be completed in a matter of days.
The New York Times first reported on the expected timing for the authorization.
The FDA announcement is set to come barely a month after Pfizer found that its shot, which is already authorized for those age 16 and older, also provided protection for those aged 12 to 15.
What are the COVID vaccine side effects for kids?
Pfizer in late March released preliminary results from a vaccine study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15, showing there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 18 among those given dummy shots.
Kids had side effects similar to young adults, the company said. The main side effects are pain, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose. The study will continue to track participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety.
When can younger kids get COVID vaccine?
Pfizer told Wall Street analysts and reporters on Tuesday that it plans to seek approval in September for its COVID-19 vaccine to be used in children ages 2 to 11.
The Pfizer vaccine was the first to receive emergency use authorization in the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.