DeSantis reverses course on COVID-19 vaccines for young children

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attends a media event regarding the 2022 Florida Python Challenge, Thursday, June 16, 2022, in the Everglades west of Miami. Florida was the only state that did not pre-order COVID-19 vaccines for children aged six months to five years.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now allowing health care providers — including pediatricians and children’s hospitals — to order COVID-19 vaccines from a federal program for children six months to 5 years old, a reversal from earlier this week when providers were barred from pre-ordering doses, White House officials told McClatchy.

The decision will expand access to pediatric coronavirus vaccines for parents across the state, which DeSantis’ previous position would have been limited to seeking vaccines at a select number of community health centers and hospitals. establishments participating in a federal retail pharmacy program.

The DeSantis administration is aggressively pushing back against the notion that its stance has changed, with a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health telling McClatchy that it never planned to block private health care providers from ordering doses.

But those private vendors were unable to place orders by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tuesday deadline for initial doses in the first two weeks of availability. It could take up to two weeks for deliveries to arrive depending on orders placed on Friday.

“We are encouraged that after Governor DeSantis’ repeated failures to order COVID-19 vaccines even after all other states have ordered, the State of Florida is now allowing health care providers to order vaccines COVID-19 for our youngest children,” the White House press secretary said. Karine Jean-Pierre told McClatchy. “We believe it is 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.

“Even though Governor DeSantis has reversed course and is now ordering vaccines, we will pull every lever to get vaccines to pediatricians in Florida as quickly as possible,” Jean-Pierre said. “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.”

DeSantis office says there is no reversal

Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, said “the fact that the White House is trying to say that we have somehow changed our approach is a complete lie.”

“Pre-order means prior to emergency use authorization. The emergency use authorization has now ended, so vendors are allowed to order on their own,” he said. “We didn’t pre-order because we didn’t want to be the CDC’s storage unit.”

The governor’s office said in a statement that “it is patently untrue that Florida has ‘reversed course’ or changed its position in any way regarding the COVID vaccine for children under 5. “.

“We never argued that the state would ban health care providers from ordering the vaccine,” said Bryan Griffin, the governor’s deputy press secretary. “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 years old. The State of Florida does not recommend that the vaccine be given to healthy children. Unfortunately, many media outlets have assumed that government is the only means by which anything happens in today’s society, and have convoluted a lack of action or support from the state with a ban or ban .

The Biden administration set up pre-orders for doses of pediatric vaccines to ensure rapid delivery once the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the injections, which came on Friday. No doses were issued prior to the FDA decision.

A delay in access to vaccine doses

Because of the delay, pediatricians’ offices and children’s hospitals in Florida — the go-to place for pediatric care for millions of parents — won’t have access to the doses while the rest of the country will.

White House and Department of Health and Human Services officials told McClatchy that Florida officials who had been repeatedly pressed to place orders had given no indication, as of Thursday, that they would open up access to local healthcare providers.

Florida officials will still have to use resources to help facilitate orders from health care providers across the state, U.S. officials said.

“Across the country, state health departments are working with vendors across the state to collect their orders. This concerns our vaccination programs, of all ages, through these authorized products,” said Sonya Bernstein, senior policy adviser on COVID-19 for the White House.

During the week, DeSantis administration officials told reporters that COVID-19 posed “virtually zero risk” to children and, contradicting federal public health agencies, claimed that the risks of vaccinating infants outweighed the benefits.

“We were giving it away when it first came out because a lot of people wanted it and there wasn’t enough supply. Well, there’s a surplus of that. Doctors can get it, hospitals can get it,” DeSantis said. “But there won’t be state programs trying to, you know, give COVID vaccines to infants, toddlers, and newborns.”

During a briefing with reporters on Friday afternoon, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said DeSantis’ initial position was “inadmissible” and that developments over the past 24 hours marked a “significant change”.

“Whether this is a rollover or not, I will say the following: Yesterday, pediatricians in every state across the country could order vaccines, or had the ability to order vaccines for their offices, at the exception of pediatricians in the state of Florida. Starting today, pediatricians now have that choice,” Jha said. “Something clearly changed between yesterday and today in the state of Florida.

“The State of Florida intentionally missed several deadlines to order vaccines to protect its youngest children,” Jha added. “Elected officials have deliberately chosen to delay action to deny parents in Florida the choice of whether or not to have their children vaccinated.”

All other states have pre-ordered vaccines

McClatchy first reported Wednesday that Florida was the only U.S. state not to have ordered COVID-19 vaccines for children under age 5, missing a deadline for pre-orders set by the federal government. Public health officials and the Biden administration are warning that parents across the state will struggle to find vaccines for their children as a result.

The news sparked a public outcry among doctors in the state. On Friday morning, a congressional panel created to oversee the federal response to the coronavirus demanded an explanation from the governor unless he backed down.

The FDA granted emergency use authorization for the vaccines Friday morning, describing its review process as long and vigorous.

“The agency has determined that the known and potential benefits of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the known and potential risks in pediatric populations licensed for use for each vaccine,” the FDA said in a statement. communicated.

An independent panel advising the CDC is expected to recommend the use of vaccines over the weekend. The CDC director will likely approve those recommendations by Sunday. Firing could begin as early as Monday across the country.

Dr Lisa Gwynn, president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said she was “delighted” with the state’s turnaround. The chapter has 3,000 members.

“We’re glad to hear that the state agreed this was important,” said Gwynn, who is also an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics and public health sciences at the University of Washington’s Miller School of Medicine. Miami.

“We just want to thank everyone who has spoken out and stood up for children,” she added. “We all regrouped and we are happy to see the result.”

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reporter Romy Ellenbogen and Miami Herald editor Michelle Marchante contributed to this report.

This story was originally published June 17, 2022 1:05 p.m.

Michael Wilner is McClatchy’s senior national security and White House correspondent. A member of the White House team since 2019, he led coverage of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. Wilner previously served as Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College and Columbia University and is originally from New York.

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