The Biden administration hopes to begin vaccinating younger children by late spring or early summer, Dr Anthony Fauci said Friday during a White House coronavirus briefing.
The government’s top public health expert said clinical studies to determine whether approved coronavirus vaccines are safe for younger children will begin in the “next couple of months.”
The results could influence the debate over how to safely reopen public schools.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently given to health care workers, nursing home residents and older Americans weren’t tested on younger children.
Biden has set a goal of reopening most schools in his first 100 days in office or near the end of April.
Dr. Anthony Fauci also said the emergence and increasing spread of coronavirus mutations means vaccine makers must be ready to make new shots to stay ahead of the public health crisis.
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“This is a wake-up call to all of us,” said Fauci, noting government scientists will be working to keep pace with virus mutations.
The nature of viruses is to change in ways that promote their spread, Fauci said. The evolution of mutant versions means scientists need to be “nimble” and ready to make tweaks to vaccines. So far, the mutants haven’t overwhelmed the protective power of vaccines.
He said it is important to vaccinate people as quickly as possible to keep new mutations from developing.
The head of the CDC said Friday doctors and public health officials should approach each new case of the coronavirus as if it is a mutation.
“I do believe we should be treating every case as it if it’s a variant during this pandemic right now,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House coronavirus briefing.
Two cases of the variant that originated in South Africa has been detected in South Carolina. There is concern if it continues to spread, it could become dominant in a few months.
Walensky says contact tracing efforts in the U.S. are not yet up to the task of containing the potential breakout of new mutations.
White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt says Congress must move quickly to pass President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, which contains money to expand efforts to track and identify mutations.