Without urgent action, Florida’s youngest children will be unable to get the vaccine once authorized
TALLAHASSEE — Following the failure of Florida leaders to pre-order COVID-19 vaccines for children younger than 5 years, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) is working to find options for Florida families who want to protect their youngest children, while urging Gov. DeSantis to reconsider a decision that puts thousands of infants, toddlers, and young children in Florida at risk.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 30,000 children younger than age 5 have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and more than 500 in this age group have died. The vaccine is safe, effective, and the best tool available to prevent serious illness.
“Pediatricians’ number one job is to keep children healthy and safe. The vaccine is the best resource we have for combatting COVID-19 and, right now, we will not be able to offer this vaccine to our youngest eligible patients when it becomes available,” said FCAAP President Lisa Gwynn, DO, MBA, MSPH, FAAP. “Parents of young children have been through so much during this pandemic, and they have waited a long time to offer their children this protection. Our phones are ringing off the hook with concerned parents eager to know where they can get the vaccine. Right now, we don’t have a good answer.”
On March 8, Florida became the first and only state in the nation to issue official guidance discouraging the vaccination of “healthy” children against COVID-19. Now, Florida is the only state in the nation not to pre-order vaccines for administration to children under 5 years old.
The COVID-19 vaccine distribution system is state-based and not designed to allow individual doctors or institutions to order directly from the manufacturer. As a result, if a state fails to pre-order an allotment of vaccines, as is the case in Florida, the vaccines will be available only to federally qualified health centers and certain pharmacies, not to hospitals, private practice pediatricians, or family practice physicians. Further, clinicians cannot administer vaccines formulated for older populations to younger children.
New vaccines are evaluated by a long-standing, rigorous, and transparent process through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by which safety and efficacy data are reviewed before authorization and recommendation. The FDA commissioner today issued an emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine covering children 6 months to 5 years old, and CDC advisors meet today and tomorrow to consider a recommendation.
Florida’s decision to delay making the vaccine available to children in Florida once authorized conflicts with scientific evidence and clinical experience. FCAAP and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are dedicated to protecting Florida’s children and will continue to urge Gov. DeSantis to allow parents who choose to do so the option to vaccinate their young children against COVID-19. FCAAP and AAP both recommend that all eligible children and adults get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
“Parents of children under 5 should be given the same choice as all other parents in Florida when it comes to vaccinating their children against COVID-19,” said Dr. Gwynn. “Right now, pediatricians can place orders for vaccines for our patients 5 and older, but not for our youngest ones. The state’s decision to obstruct access to COVID-19 vaccines is anti-science, an affront to parental rights, and an intrusion into the relationship between doctors, patients, and the families they serve.”
FCAAP encourages parents to reach out to Gov. DeSantis directly to request the vaccine be made available as soon as possible at (850) 717-9337 or GovernorRon.Desantis@eog.myflorida.com.
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Through its more than 2,600 members, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics promotes the health and welfare of Florida’s children and supports pediatricians and pediatric specialists as the best qualified providers of their healthcare. Learn more at www.fcaap.org.
For more information:
Scott VanDeman, Communications Coordinator
Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
850-224-3939, ext. 1005