White House COVID-19 Response Team representative Dr. Cameron Webb spoke about the vaccines and why Americans should still be cognizant of the ongoing pandemic amid inflation, rising gas prices, gun control debates and limited baby formula.
What is the latest update on giving COVID vaccines to children under 5 years old?
It’s not a small group of folks. This is nearly 18 million people in this country, our kids between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. It’s a large segment of the population who, to this point, hasn’t had the opportunity to be vaccinated. If you’re talking about it from an equity standpoint, this is the most diverse segment of our population, nearly 50% are children of color. It’s really important as we look at that and say, “How do we make sure they’re protected?”
Starting next week, the FDA committee is going to be meeting to review all of the data submitted by Moderna and by Pfizer to make sure these vaccines are safe and they’re effective for kids. This is a committee of experts: public health leaders, physicians, nurses, folks who really have a lot of experience and expertise regarding vaccines and similar kinds of products. They’re going to ultimately make the decision whether or not to authorize this for emergency use. If they give it the green-light, then it’s going to go to the CDC advisory committee on immunization practices. They’ll meet later next week and they’ll give the final word on that recommendation, including the recommendation from the director of the CDC, to move forward with it. Our hope is this continues to move forward so we get a safe and effective vaccine we can start getting into arms as early as the beginning of that week of June 20, because it’s just another way that we can help keep folks safe.
There’s so much going on right now, it can be very easy for the average American citizen to forget about COVID. What do you want people to remember about it still being a pandemic?
It is not lost on me.
When I look at all those problems you just listed, COVID has a role in the challenges we’re seeing now. Everything from baby formula to inflation to gun violence. We’ve seen an impact of COVID on gun violence across the country in these past couple of years. These are tremendous challenges and issues, and they are made worse by the underlying pandemic that’s going on around our country. What I want to remind people is that we’ve got to have the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time to tackle these pressing social challenges, economic challenges, but still keep our eye on the ball with moving forward from a public health perspective. That’s the only way we’re going to be OK on the other side of this.