(The Hill) — Florida will not dedicate any state resources to vaccinating young children against COVID-19, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Thursday.
Responding to a question following a press conference about an annual python hunt in the Everglades, DeSantis said infants and toddlers “are at practically zero risk of anything with COVID,” so the state will recommend against getting those kids vaccinated.
“There is not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns,” DeSantis said to applause from the crowd on hand. “That’s not something that we think is appropriate, and so that’s not where we are going to be utilizing our resources.”
DeSantis said the trial data on the vaccines is “abysmal” and suggested they have not been through enough testing to ensure they are safe for use in kids.
“Our Department of Health has been very clear, the risk outweighs the benefits and we recommend against it. That’s not the same as banning it. People can access it if they want to,” DeSantis said.
But DeSantis also said that parents don’t have any reason to worry about their kids getting infected with COVID-19, and blamed “media hysteria” for any alarm.
At least 442 children under 5 have died due to COVID-19 through the end of May, exceeding the number or deaths typically seen from flu or other vaccine-preventable illnesses, Peter Marks, the Food and Drug Administration’s top vaccine regulator, said Wednesday.
The governor’s comments come a day after the state confirmed it will not be pre-ordering any vaccines to allow providers to start administering shots for the youngest kids once regulators give the green light, which is expected to occur this weekend.
The move ratchets up tensions between the Republican governor — who has presidential aspirations — and the White House. DeSantis and the Biden administration have clashed repeatedly about the governor’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By being the only state not-pre-ordering, pediatricians for example in Florida will not have immediate-ready access to vaccines,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Thursday’s daily briefing. “Some pharmacies and community health centers in the state get access through federal distribution channels, but those options are limited for parents.”
The White House initially made 10 million vaccines for young children available for states, tribes and other jurisdictions to pre-order in anticipation of authorization.
The Florida Department of Health pushed back on that claim, telling The Hill in a statement there will be no delay in providers getting doses should they want any.
“The only difference is that the Florida Department of Health is not going to be the federal government’s storage and distribution facility,” the Department said.
In March, Florida became the first state to recommend against vaccinating healthy kids and teenagers ages 5 to 17. The state issued guidance saying those kids “may not benefit from receiving the currently available COVID-19 vaccine,” and that parents who have children with underlying conditions should discuss the risks and benefits with their doctor.
The Department of Health is led by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, a DeSantis appointee who has openly questioned the safety and benefit of the COVID-19 vaccines.