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DeSantis: FL will not participate in state programs that vaccinate young kids and infants for COVID

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DeSantis: FL will not participate in state programs that vaccinate young kids and infants for COVID

Jun 16, 2022 | 3:12 pm ET
By Laura Cassels
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DeSantis: FL will not participate in state programs that vaccinate young kids and infants for COVID
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FL Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday the state will not participate in state government programs to vaccinate young children. Screenshot: The Florida Channel

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that parents who want to vaccinate their young children and infants will be able to access the COVID-19 vaccines, once they are approved, through their pediatricians and hospitals — but the governor said emphatically that state government will not participate in vaccinating kids under 5.

The youngest age for these COVID vaccines would be 6 months.

“There’s not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to, you know, get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns,” DeSantis said. “That’s not something that we think is appropriate and so that’s not [how] we’re going to be utilizing our resources in that regard.”

In fact, the McClatchy news network reported Wednesday night that Florida is the only state to decline to pre-order doses of the vaccines.

As federal health authorities appear on the brink of approving COVID-19 vaccines for young children and infants, DeSantis on Thursday defended his surgeon general’s recommendation against it and accused media of stoking fears among parents.

“We know that the risk is low. We’re not sure how this is going to work, but parents are really frightened about COVID for their kids. Which I would say is, why would they be frightened about it? It’s because of media hysteria. It’s because of a lot of misinformation. That’s why they’re scared,” DeSantis said in answer to reporter questions following an event announcing the opening of this year’s “python challenge.” (That event aims to remove invasive pythons from the Everglades.)

DeSantis: FL will not participate in state programs that vaccinate young kids and infants for COVID
FL Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo claimed this week the FDA and CDC engage in “scientifically inexplicable decision-making.” Screenshot: The Florida Channel.

Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, whose Department of Health does not recommend COVID vaccines for most children, according to the guidance in March on vaccines. 

“Based on currently available data, healthy children aged 5 to 17 may not benefit from receiving the currently available COVID-19 vaccine. The Department recommends that children with underlying conditions are the best candidates for the COVID-19 vaccine,” the guidance states.

In addition, Ladapo told reporters Tuesday he doubts the validity of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee’s recommendation to approve Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for use in young children and infants. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to decide in coming days whether to follow that recommendation by approving the vaccines under emergency-use authorization.

“There’s been a lot of unpredictable and sort of scientifically inexplicable decision-making on the part of the FDA and sometimes on the part of the CDC in the pandemic,” Ladapo said Tuesday. “From what I’ve seen, there’s just insufficient data to inform benefits and risks in children, and it’s very unequivocal.”

Ladapo did not respond Tuesday to reporters asking him to specify what he considers flaws in the data being evaluated by the FDA advisory committee, a panel of pediatricians, epidemiologists and other scientists — and by the CDC.

All of the 21 doctors and scientists on the FDA’s advisory committee – they are named here – twice voted yes Wednesday on the question of whether the benefits of using the proposed vaccines in young children and infants outweigh the risks. The hearing and testimony can be viewed here via YouTube.

Pfizer has asked the FDA to authorize a three-dose vaccine for children ages 6 months through 4 years, while Moderna is seeking authorization for a two-dose vaccine for kids ages 6 months through 5 years.

A committee member, Hayley Altman-Gans, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University Medical Center, called the development of safe COVID vaccines for the world’s youngest children “a breakthrough.” She stressed that gaining an immune response via vaccines in young children and infants does not damage human tissue as does the immune response generated by a COVID infection. She also stressed that safe and effective medical treatments are not yet available for young children who become infected.

“We do take science very seriously, and I hope that really has come through for those who maybe are doubting the fact that we’re listening, we are considering all the different science … and I want to applaud the scientific community. This is really a breakthrough,” Dr. Altman-Gans said.

Meanwhile, the Kaiser Family Foundation said in a recent survey that:

“The latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey finds that about one in five parents of children under age 5 (18%) are eager to get their child vaccinated right away, while a larger share (38%) say they plan to wait a while to see how the vaccine is working for others.

“About four in ten parents of children under 5 are more reluctant to get their child vaccinated with 27% saying they will “definitely not” get their child vaccinated and 11% saying they will only do so if they are required. Just over half of parents of children in this age range say they do not have enough information about the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness for children under age 5.”