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Health News Florida
News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida and WUSF can help. Our responsibility at WUSF News is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

COVID vaccines for young kids will be available in Florida to anyone who wants them

Ron DeSantis.jpg
Facebook/Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he won't facilitate distribution of the vaccines for ages 5 and younger but that the shots will be available to people who want them.

Demand could delay when the vaccine is available, but the state's refusal to preorder from the federal government won't be the reason, says the director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville.

COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 will be available in Florida even though the state did not preorder supplies from the federal government.

Parents still can get the vaccine from doctors or from pharmacies or supermarket chains that partner with the federal government, such as CVS, and some community health centers, which can preorder directly from the federal government.

Other venues such as hospitals have previously benefited from the state’s preordering of shots. However, they also can order them directly from the federal government via a Florida government web portal and receive the doses within days or a week, according to Florida Department of Health.

"Doctors can get it. Hospitals can get it. 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," Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday in South Florida. "That's not something that we think is appropriate, and so that's not where we're going to be utilizing our resources in that regard."

Demand for the vaccine could delay when it's available, but Florida's refusal to order the vaccine is not the reason, said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville.

"I would anticipate the doctor’s offices and clinics and anywhere you would take your child to get vaccinated ... probably give them a couple of weeks for the supply chains to work out what they need to work out, and then they’ll be available,” Neilsen said Thursday on WJCT's First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said availability of the shots could be delayed in children's hospitals and other facilities that have relied on state distribution.

However, Florida Department of Health spokesman Jeremy Redfern.said preordering would mean the department would stockpile them, ship them to county-level health departments and then out to the hospitals. Hospitals that use the portal will be receiving the shots directly from the federal government.

“The timing doesn’t necessarily change” in a significant way, This just cuts out the middleman,” Redfern.said.

The health department, under the leadership of state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, has said it doesn’t recommend the shots for healthy children.

Ladapo said this week that there is insufficient proof that the vaccine is beneficial for young children. He has been a longtime critic of vaccines for adults as well. He signed a petition in July 2021 urging the FDA not to give the Pfizer vaccine its final approval without further clinical trials.

Ladapo's opinion conflicts with that of experts at the Food and Drug Administration, which on Friday authorized vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna for ages 6 months to 5 years.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are likely to consider the issue over the weekend, the final step in the approval process. Shots could be available to young children as soon as Tuesday.

Florida has stuck to its skepticism, however. The deadline for placing a preorder with the federal government was Tuesday. All 49 states except Florida met the deadline.

The Department of Health said the decision against preordering should not have been a surprise, given the state's position on vaccines.

“States do not need to be involved in the convoluted vaccine distribution process, especially when the federal government has a track record of developing inconsistent and unsustainable COVID-19 policies,” the department said in a statement.

Nielsen, at UF Health, said he expects that the American Academy of Pediatrics will recommend that young children get vaccinated. He said parents should talk with their pediatricians about whether their children should get the shot.

You can hear the full interview with Nielsen here.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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