Family members watch Jack Frilingos, 12, be vaccinated with Pfizer’s Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) vaccine after Georgia received the vaccine for an age over 12 at the Dekalb Pediatric Center in Decatur, Georgia, Jan.

Chris Aluka Berry | Reuters

California health officials said Wednesday the state will have 4,000 sites ready to deliver 1.2 million Covid vaccinations to children ages 5-11 once the vaccines get full approval from the centers for control and prevention received from diseases.

The announcement came just a day after the Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee recommended Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines for this age group. The more than 1.2 million doses of vaccine will be ready for distribution within the first week of vaccination approval, said Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s epidemiologist, at a Covid briefing.

“We have around 4,000 manageable websites and over 1,000 vendors across the state that have signed up for the vaccination,” Pan said. “And more than 860,000 vaccine doses have already been ordered.”

Over 3.5 million children, ages 5 to 11, live in California, about 9% of the state’s population, Pan said. The launch of the vaccine for young children could begin as soon as CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky approved the shots, which is expected after the agency’s advisory board meeting on Tuesday.

The California Department of Health is already working with schools to deliver vaccines, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the State Health and Social Services, at the meeting. Some schools in California are partnering with pharmacies and other health care providers to distribute syringes, Ghaly said, adding he expects more clinics to appear in education centers in November.

“By the middle of next month, CDPH, in collaboration with many local health authorities and other partners, has planned many vaccination sites in schools,” said Ghaly.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on October 1 a vaccine mandate for all public elementary school students who will return to face-to-face tuition once the FDA has given full approval for each age group. The requirement was the first of its kind nationwide. Pfizer is currently selling its vaccine under emergency approval. If it gets final government approval before the end of the year, Newsom said it could go into effect from Jan. 1 for students over the age of 12

Newsom’s plan will unfold in two phases, beginning with children between 12 and 17 years of age, once the FDA has fully cleared vaccines for that age group. The order will then expand to children ages 5-11 pending FDA approval. The FDA is expected to clear the shots for the younger age group as early as this week, with full approval expected to take several months longer. White House officials said the country has stocks of doses to vaccinate all 28 million of the country’s 5-11 year olds.

If the agency doesn’t fully approve vaccines for anyone over 12 by the end of the year, Ghaly said the mandate’s start date would be postponed from January to July. The FDA fully approved Pfizer’s vaccine in August for anyone aged 16 and over and cleared it for emergency use in adolescents aged 12-15 in May. Moderna and J & J’s vaccines are currently only approved for use in adults.