The administration is also hoping that schools like Franklin Sherman will play a major role. On Monday, Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services, and Miguel A. Cardona, the education secretary, sent a letter to school superintendents and elementary school principals across the country urging them to encourage vaccination, including by holding clinics.
But getting parents comfortable with vaccinating their children has sometimes been difficult, even when the children are older. In more conservative areas of the country, school officials are treading lightly in promoting the vaccine.
A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, published last month before the F.D.A.’s authorization for younger children, found that 27 percent of parents said they would “definitely not” get their 5-to-11-year-olds vaccinated against the coronavirus. An additional 33 percent said they would “wait and see” how the vaccine was working before getting their children the shots.
That was not the case nearly 70 years ago, when Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had invented a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes polio. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was paralyzed by polio, led the push to eradicate the disease, known then as “infant paralysis” because it so often struck children. (Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, also contracted the disease when he was two and walks with a slight limp as a result.)
By drawing attention to Franklin Sherman Elementary, the White House hoped to remind the public of that earlier era, when the country pulled together to fight a terrifying threat. When Dr. Biden and Dr. Murthy arrived on Monday, they chatted with the school principal, Kathleen Quigley, against the backdrop of two easels displaying black-and-white photos of children getting their polio shots 67 years ago.
The school and its “polio pioneers” are mindful of their place in history. One of them, Jackie Lonergan, now 75, told The Washington Post that parents did not question whether their children should get Dr. Salk’s experimental vaccine. (In a rare interview in 1993, Dr. Salk told a reporter that his vaccine had offered “freedom from fear.”)