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DeSantis allows healthcare facilities to order COVID vaccines for children

COVID-19 vaccines for Florida children under age 5 will likely be delayed because the state did not participate in a national pre-order process run by the U.S. government, federal officials said Friday.

Florida was the only state in the country that did not pre-order COVID-19 vaccines for children, Dr. Ashish Jha, the Biden administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, told a national press conference conducted via Zoom from the White House.

“We have been preparing for this moment for many weeks,” he said. “We knew this was coming and we did a lot of preparation.”

The Biden administration said June 2 that children under age 5 could receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as early as next Tuesday, provided federal regulators allow shots for the age group, as intended.

But Jha said Florida “intentionally missed several deadlines to order vaccines to protect its youngest children.”

He claimed the state missed last Tuesday’s deadline to order the vaccines from the federal government, and that inaction would cause delays in delivering doses to Florida health providers whose patients wanted them.

But now, Jha claimed, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is allowing pediatricians and children’s hospitals to order COVID-19 vaccines directly from the federal program aimed at vaccinating children between six months and 5 years old.

“I am personally pleased to see, and we are pleased to see, that after intense pressure on the Governor of Florida to allow parents to make their own decisions in consultation with their pediatricians, Florida this morning opened the order for COVID-19 vaccines to suppliers. including pediatrician offices across the state,” Jha told reporters.

This decision would allow parents who wish to have their children vaccinated to obtain them from their doctor. Previously, they would have been available at some community health centers and facilities involved in a federally run pharmacy program.

Florida’s outlier status has angered Lisa Gwynn, president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

She said the Florida Department of Health used to distribute vaccines through an electronic ordering system for pediatricians. Hospitals have also ordered vaccines from the state.

“We don’t know when the vaccines are coming because we’re at the end of the line,” she told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “DeSantis got the attention of the whole country, didn’t he?”

She is also angry with the governor for continuing to insist that the vaccine has not been shown to work for young children.

“The vaccine is safe and effective for children 6 months and older,” Gwynn said, “It’s absurd and infuriating. He has a surgeon general who is not a pediatrician, not an infectious disease expert, and they don’t listen to experts in these areas.

For months, Governor Ron DeSantis has clashed with the Biden administration over a wide range of federal countermeasures designed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last round took place this week to provide special doses of vaccines to children under 5 years old.

On Thursday, DeSantis reiterated at a press conference that his administration does not support vaccines for children. But he stopped short of saying the state would ban them.

“Our Department of Health has been very clear, the risks outweigh the benefits and we advise against it,” he said. “It’s not the same as banning it. I mean, people can get it if they want it and parents can get it…Doctors can get it, hospitals can get it, but there won’t be any state programs that will try, you know, to get COVID shots to infants, toddlers, and newborns.

Earlier in the week, Florida Department of Health spokesman Jeremy Redfern told the Miami Herald that there were no plans to order the vaccine in the future because the agency does not recommend it for children in healthy.

And on Friday, Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, denied that the governor backtracked or changed his position.

“The State of Florida and Surgeon General Dr. [Joseph] Ladapo affirmatively recommends against vaccinating babies and children 0-5 against COVID, and COVID vaccines are generally not recommended for children under 18,” she said. “But it has always been the parents’ choice and it will remain so.”

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And she said the state was not involved in the ordering process that Jha described.

“The state doesn’t place orders,” she said. “It’s up to healthcare providers to place orders if they choose to do so based on patient demand.”

In Washington, however, Ashi told reporters that Florida changed course because the state now allows private health care providers to order the injections.

“We are encouraged that after Governor DeSantis’ repeated failures to order COVID-19 vaccines even after all other states have ordered [them]the state of Florida now allows health care providers to order COVID-19 vaccines for our youngest children,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

“We believe it’s essential to allow parents around the world to have the choice to have their children vaccinated and to have a conversation with their pediatrician or health care provider,” she said. “Even though Governor DeSantis has reversed course and is now ordering vaccines, we will pull every lever to get pediatricians across Florida on vaccines as quickly as possible.”

Vaccine advisers at the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday gave their approval to vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in the United States.

Pfizer’s vaccine is a tenth of its adult dose and is intended for children 6 months to 4 years old. Moderna’s vaccine contains a quarter of the adult dose and is intended for children 6 months to 5 years of age. The blows will probably be given in series of three courts.

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