By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration on Wednesday outlined its plan to vaccinate millions of kids ages 5 to 11 as soon as the COVID-19 shot is approved for younger children, readying doses and preparing locations ahead of the busy holiday season.
It is working to set up vaccination clinics in more than 100 children's hospital systems nationwide as well as doctor's offices, pharmacies and potentially schools, it said.
If Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE's vaccine wins wider approval, the plan would ensure "it is quickly distributed and made conveniently and equitably available to families across the country," the White House said in a statement, noting regulators will independently weigh approval.
Food and Drug Administration officials are reviewing the Pfizer/BioNTech application seeking approval of its 2-dose vaccine for younger children, with its panel of outside advisers scheduled to weigh in on Oct. 26. The FDA typically follows the advice of its panel but is not required to do so.
Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will next weigh in on recommendations for the vaccine at a Nov. 2 and 3 meeting, which its director will use in making her own recommendation.
"We will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final CDC recommendation," the White House said ahead of an 8:45 a.m. (1345 GMT) news briefing with U.S. President Joe Biden's White House COVID-19 response team.
Once approved, roughly 28 million more children in the United States would be eligible to receive what would be the first U.S.-approved vaccine to ward off the novel coronavirus in younger kids. The Pfizer/BioNTech shot is already approved for those ages 12-17, and the companies are still studying it for those younger than 5.
"We have to be prepared to ensure that we can get vaccines to families as soon as the FDA and the CDC issue their decision," U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told NBC News' "Today" program.
Murthy said the administration was not looking to get ahead of health regulators but wanted to lay the groundwork to ease distribution to ensure there is ample supply and access to vaccination locations.
While children have a lower rate of death from COVID-19, many still face illness and long-term symptoms that are still being studied. Many adults who have been hesitant or opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine, and even some who did not oppose the vaccine for themselves, are expected to resist giving the shot to their children.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Editing by Nick Zieminski and Philippa Fletcher)