DeSantis ‘reversed course’ on COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5, White House says

Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 2:16 PM EDT
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The White House on Friday said Florida is now allowing pediatricians and other health care providers to order doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for kids 6 months to 5 years old.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday officially authorized both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to do the same this weekend.

The White House on Friday announced Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has “reversed course” and is now allowing health care providers to order doses of the vaccine for their youngest patients.

"We believe it is critical to allow parents everywhere to have the choice to get their kids vaccinated and have a conversation with their pediatrician or health care provider," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a written statement.

The DeSantis Administration, however, took issue with the White House's claim that the governor has "reversed course" on the orders, saying it's "patently false."

DeSantis' Deputy Press Secretary Bryan Griffin released the following statement to the media on Friday:

"It is patently false that Florida has 'reversed course' or changed its position in any way with regards to the COVID vaccine for children under 5. We have never held the position that the state would prohibit healthcare providers from ordering the vaccine. We have always maintained the position that the State of Florida has chosen not to be involved in the pre-ordering or distribution of the vaccine for children under 5. The State of Florida does not recommend the vaccine be administered to healthy children. Once again, many media outlets assume that government is the only means by which something happens in today's society, and have convoluted a lack of state action or support with a ban or prohibition."

Jean-Pierre said the Biden Administration will "pull every lever to get pediatricians across Florida vaccines as quickly as possible."

Earlier this week, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said the Sunshine State is not pre-ordering any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5, arguing there's not enough data to support the vaccine for healthy children.

WFLX on Thursday spoke to Palm Beach County pediatrician Dr. Tommy Schechtman with Pediatric Partners, who said he was unable to pre-order the vaccine through the Florida SHOTS program.

"We're extremely furious that we are not able to protect our children, our patients," Schechtman said. "We have many patients and parents that are upset, angry, anxious."

Following that interview, WFLX contacted the Florida Department of Health, which said “SHOTS will open to orders once the vaccine is approved for use,” meaning emergency use authorization from the FDA.

Schechtman told WFLX on Friday he was finally able to place an order through Florida SHOTS, but the delivery has not yet been confirmed, so he doesn’t know when he’ll get the doses.

While DeSantis is allowing pediatricians to order the vaccine, the Florida Department of Health will continue to hold off on getting doses, meaning state and local health departments will not immediately have access to shots.

"This is an encouraging first step, and we urge the state to order vaccines for its state and local health departments, so that all Florida parents have the opportunity to get their children vaccinated," Jean-Pierre said in her statement.

Schechtman said retail pharmacies should still be able to get the vaccine, along with the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, a federally-qualified health center that is able to pre-order its supply directly from the federal government.

The White House is warning that COVID-19 vaccines for kids under five could be delayed by days because state health officials didn’t pre-order them.

On a press call Friday, federal officials said Florida health care providers are now able to order the shots — which follows FDA approval — but that they’ll get them days after the rest of the nation.

That’s because, they said, Florida repeatedly declined to pre-order the vaccines, the only state to do so.

The delay is expected to be "days," though the White House said it’s working to "speed that up."

"We know that there are parents across America, kids under five, who have been waiting a very long time," said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House's COVID response coordinator. "For many of them, this delay introduced by the actions of the governor and the department of health, I think, is unconscionable."

Earlier on Friday, White House officials created a stir when suggesting Florida had caved to political pressure and "reversed course" on shots by now allowing providers to order them for young kids.

The governor’s office has vehemently denied that’s the case, saying providers can order only because of the FDA’s emergency authorization taking effect.

DeSantis spoke on the issue Thursday in Miami.

"There’s a surplus of this. Doctors can get it, hospitals can get it," DeSantis said. "But there is not going to be any state program that are going to be trying to get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns. That’s not something that we think is appropriate."

The final steps to get full emergency use approval will be in the hands of the CDC. A panel is reviewing shot trials and is expected to recommend both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

After that, the CDC director will then need to sign off, which could happen this weekend.

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