Florida has not pre-ordered any doses of coronavirus vaccines for very young children from the federal government, state officials said Thursday, arguing that the state need not be involved in what they called a ‘convoluted vaccine distribution process’.
How much Florida’s decision would hamper the distribution of vaccines in the state in the coming days was not immediately clear.
The Florida Department of Health said in a statement that it had not placed an advance order for pediatric vaccines in part because “the federal government has a reputation for developing inconsistent and unsustainable Covid-19 policies. “.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told a news conference Thursday that Florida was the only state to refrain from pre-ordering pediatric injections. Other states have ordered millions of doses, which could be available as early as next week. The deadline for pre-orders was Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services.
An expert advisory panel set up by the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously on Wednesday to recommend allowing the use of the Moderna vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 6 months to 4 years. The agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to act on the matter in the coming days.
In its statement Thursday, the Florida Department of Health said doctors could order vaccines if needed. But Ms. Jean-Pierre said the state’s inability to submit a pre-order means pediatricians in Florida “will not have immediate, immediate access to vaccines.”
Michael Ganio, senior director of pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, said if the state doesn’t order doses, Florida providers won’t be able to get them through the state channels. Some can order them directly from the federal government.
Pharmacies registered with a federal program were able to do so, as were community health clinics supported by the federal government. Biden administration officials were looking for ways to distribute doses to other vendors in Florida if the state continued to resist the order on its own, according to administration officials who were not authorized to publicly discuss planning. A spokesperson for CVS Health, one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains, said Thursday the company would order doses for its stores from the federal government.
Families will be able to check pharmacy websites to check inventory, as well as vaccines.gov, a federal site that tracks availability. As doses are shipped and made their way to pharmacies and other sites, the federal site will be gradually updated to show where they are, an official said.
The Florida Department of Health is led by state surgeon general Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, who was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, in September 2021. Dr. Ladapo has frequently expressed skepticism about coronavirus vaccines, strongly opposed mask mandates and lockdowns, and made a number of false or misleading claims about the coronavirus, including that face masks do not stop its spread and that infections it causes are less deadly than those of the flu.
The ministry said in its statement that it chose not to participate in the distribution of pediatric vaccine doses because it does not believe healthy children should receive the injections. That stance, which the department has taken since March, contradicts guidance from the CDC, which has urged parents to get their eligible children vaccinated, whether they are healthy or have medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable. Children 5 years and older are already eligible.
Mr. DeSantis told a press conference on Thursday that there would be no state-run programs in Florida to vaccinate young children, and that while parents were free to choose, the state would recommend not to vaccinate them.