The doses were given the green light after clearing two final hurdles — a recommendation from CDC advisers, followed by approval from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, with the federal government promising enough of the vaccine to protect the nation’s 28 million kids in this age group, Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart pharmacies will begin vaccination efforts.
Starting Saturday, thousands of Walgreens stores across the nation will begin administering the two-dose primary series of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 pediatric vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 years old.
"The COVID-19 vaccine is just as important to protect children as other routine immunizations are, and the expanded eligibility will help children stay in school safely and prevent severe illness due to COVID-19," Walgreens Chief Medical Officer Kevin Ban said.
Select CVS pharmacies will follow suit starting on Sunday "upon receipt and confirmation of vaccine supply," the company said. It will be available at nearly 1,700 CVS Pharmacy locations in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., according to CVS.
Meanwhile, Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies will administer the Pfizer vaccine at more than 5,100 pharmacies nationwide "starting later this week as supply allows," the Arkansas-based retailer announced.
However, Walmart stopped short of offering an exact date of when that will be.
Even though the vaccine won't officially be ready until the weekend, parents and legal guardians are already being encouraged to start scheduling appointments before shipments even arrive.
Walgreens and CVS are directing consumers to schedule appointments online and through the company's mobile app. Walgreens is letting consumers make appointments over the phone as well.
Walmart is also encouraging parents to use its digital appointment scheduler online to reserve a spot for their child before heading to the pharmacy because "supply may be limited."
They will also accept walk-ins "based on availability."
Lisa Smith, Walmart senior director of clinical strategy and operations, said this development is a "sign of relief."
"Many schools reopened this fall but have dealt with interruptions and closings because of COVID-19 outbreaks, so for many, this authorization brings a big sigh of relief," Smith said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report