Florida is defending its decision not to preorder COVID-19 vaccines for young children or vaccinating them, after drawing criticism from the White House.
“Did the COVID-19 vaccine trials for kids <5 show a reduction in severe illness? Did the trials show a benefit for those with a prior COVID-19 infection? Is there a benefit for kids with no pre-existing conditions?” wrote Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo on Twitter on June 18. Ladapo also serves as the state’s health secretary.
He added: “Florida puts data over ideology. That’s not going to change.”
Days earlier, he explained his rationale for not supporting the idea of vaccinating young kids.
“From what I have seen, there is just insufficient data to inform benefits and risk in children. I think that’s very unequivocal,” he said while speaking to reporters in Tallahassee.
In early June, the Biden administration started a preordering system, making available 10 million vaccines for young children to states, Native American tribes, territories, and other entities. On June 16, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Florida is the only state to not preorder the vaccine doses.
Also on June 16, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that local doctors and hospitals can get the vaccines, but “there’s not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns.”
“Our Department of Health has been very clear: The risks outweigh the benefits and we recommend against,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis added that young children have “practically zero risks” of COVID-19 complications, before calling clinical trial data on kids “abysmal.”
On June 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) advisory panel recommended Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months, following a unanimous vote. The panel said the FDA should give emergency authorization to the two COVID-19 vaccines since the benefits outweigh the risks.
On Friday, the FDA authorized the two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in children down to 6 months of age.
Before the FDA decision, James Lyons-Weiler, president and chief executive officer of advocacy group Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge, criticized the FDA for using what he called “unreliable and inconsistent data” to support the argument for vaccinating young children, based on his analysis published on June 11.
Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus response coordinator, called Florida’s decision not to preorder “unconscionable,” during a briefing on June 17.
“The state of Florida intentionally missed multiple deadlines to order vaccines to protect its youngest kids,” Jha added. “Elected officials deliberately chose to delay taking action to deny Florida parents the choice of whether to vaccinate their children or not.”
The White House is also in disagreement with DeSantis’s administration over whether the governor had changed his position on how vaccines should be provided to young children.
“We are encouraged that after repeated failures by Governor DeSantis to order COVID-19 vaccines even after every other state had ordered, the State of Florida is now permitting healthcare providers to order COVID-19 vaccines for our youngest children,” Jean-Pierre stated.
In response, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw took to Twitter to say both Jean-Pierre and McClatchy were “spreading disinformation.”
“The State of Florida is not placing any orders of covid shots for 0-5 year old babies & kids,” she wrote. “What they have couched as a reversal is actually the Governor’s steadfast position that the State of Florida does not recommend nor distribute shots for babies. Any healthcare provider that wants the vaccines can obtain them and any parent who wants it for their child can get it.”
“No state policy change in Florida. The only thing that’s changed was the federal government (FDA) issued the EUA [emergency use authorization] for the shots today,” Pushaw added. “Retract your lies.”
The Florida Department of Health also issued an alert saying nothing has changed.
“Contrary to disinformation circulating, the vaccine ordering process has not changed in Florida,” the announcement said. It said the enrolled providers can order the vaccines directly following the FDA approval on Friday.