Ahead of the FDA and CDC's review of vaccine trial results, the White House released rollout plans for kids younger than five years old.
"While the deliberations and the data review for vaccines for kids under five are ongoing, we know that for kids over five, vaccines have made a tremendous difference. Kids who are vaccinated are far less likely to get seriously ill from COVID, they're far less likely to end up in the hospital or the ICU, and they're far less likely to get complications of COVID," said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator.
NCDHHS said they have more than 325 providers across all 100 counties across the state, including in pediatric and primary care offices, pharmacies, and local health departments.
"Children are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus just like everyone else. Infection and pediatric hospitalization rates increased significantly during Omicron and we are currently seeing some increases in our trends. COVID-19 vaccines are still the best protection from severe illness, hospitalization or death for ourselves and our communities," an NCDHHS spokesperson wrote in part of a statement e-mailed to ABC 11.
The Biden administration said they've secured 10 million doses to be distributed quickly upon approval, noting that 85% of kids under the age of five live within five miles of a potential site.
"More than 30,000 children under five in our country have been hospitalized with COVID during this pandemic. And nearly 500 deaths have been reported in this age group," said US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
While COVID-19 infections are far lower than the spike from earlier this year, there's been a steady recent rise. According to the CDC, as of Monday, the seven-day rolling case average was about 47% higher over the past month.
"COVID can cause severe disease in kids. We've had kids in our hospital die of COVID," added Dr. Michael Smith, a Professor of Pediatrics at the Duke School of Medicine who serves as Interim Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Smith, a parent himself who is working on the Pfizer vaccine trials at Duke, said he plans on having his child younger than five get the vaccine once allowed to do so. He noted that dosage amounts for children are far smaller than those for adults, and addressed questions about the emergency use authorization process.
"The trials are the same size. The pre-trial science is the same as it always was. The numbers of kids in the trial is the same. What's a little bit different is instead of waiting a year or two to get all the data collected, you can approve for Emergency Use Authorization sooner once you can prove there's no safety issues," Smith explained.
At Eastern Carolina Medical Center in Benson, Pharmacy Director Dr. Ritesh Patel said they have not seen the same number of inquiries ahead of this rollout compared to other age groups.
"The only way to help us curb not just the infection rate but the death rate is to get everyone who is qualified to get the vaccine to get the vaccine. So we'll do our best to promote it by having those real conversations and making sure that we let the data and the science speak for itself," said Patel.
Thursday, parents gathered at Halifax Mall in Raleigh as part of "Strolling Thunder" a day of advocacy where they called for everything from affordable child care to expanded medical leave. They shared their thoughts on the potential for children under five to get vaccinated.
"We want to be able to take him places. He's never been to children's museums. He's never been to story time at the library. If we get him vaccinated he can be around people more safely," said Katie Cashwell of her two-year-old son Robin.
"If they're giving us a vaccine to prevent life-threatening COVID symptoms, why not just do it? It's not some conspiracy theory. It's just for the best of us," Blanca Borceguin added, a fellow mom of a two-year-old.
In North Carolina, vaccination rates steadily fall by age group. According to NCDHHS, amongst people who have received at least one dose: 27% of five-11 year-old's, 48% of 12-17 year-old's, 56% of 18-24 years-old's, 64% of 25-49 year-old's, 75% of 50-64 year-old's, 90% of 65-74 year-olds, and 100% of people 75 years old and older; figures are rounded to nearest whole number.